The Bruins will play their first road game of the season in Dallas on Friday night. And the B's will be facing a much different team than they faced last season, when they routed the Stars 5-1 in a game reminiscent of the greatest hockey movie ever, Slapshot, as the two teams combined for 146 penalty minutes.
Friday's game probably won't unravel the way that memorable bout did, if only because the main instigators from that night — Sean Avery and Steve Ott — won't be playing. Another difference, though, is that the Stars are icing a much healthier and more united team that's coming off a 6-0 win over Nashville and is off to a solid 2-0-3 start.
"They're playing with a lot of confidence," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of this year's Stars. "They're moving the puck well, too. They've got some young guys that they've inserted who are bringing a lot of energy and playing well. They're a team that has a lot of skill — and with [Brad] Richards back from all his injuries and [Mike] Ribeiro, [Brenden] Morrow and all those guys, their back end is solid and in net, they're better."
The young guys to whom Julien was referring would be James Neal (22 years old; seven points), Loui Eriksson (24; five points) and Jamie Benn (20; five points). All three have given the team an infusion of energy and scoring, fitting in nicely with veterans like Mike Modano, Morrow and Richards.
Bruins forward Steve Begin was traded from Montreal to Dallas near last spring's deadline. And while some are surprised at the Stars' strong start, Begin knew that if healthy, this team would have the chance to succeed.
"When I got there, it was kind of a tough situation because four or five of their top players were hurt," Begin pointed out. "But when they're healthy as you see now, they have a good team and a good mix. I'm not surprised [at their success] because the skill was there and they work hard. … But now you see what they're doing healthy and also with young guys stepping up."
The strong play of his friend and former teammate Ribeiro hasn't surprised Begin, either. Of course, Ribeiro is vilified in Boston from his days in Montreal. He is also the butt of jokes from this Oscar-worthy play, but Begin believes Ribeiro can still be a major contributor — in the right environment.
"He's the type of player you don't push hard. Let him be and do his own thing," Begin said. "He's the type of guy, as long as he shows up, don't pressure him, just let him go out and do his thing. He can play and has such skill. But in Montreal, it was just too crazy. Everything he did was in the newspaper. But in Dallas, there's no spotlight and he can do his job. I saw they even have him on the [penalty kill], and that means he's doing well, because he was always more [of a] power-play, offensive-type player."
Before he joined the Bruins, Begin also had faith that Stars goalie Marty Turco would bounce back from a rough season and find his game again. Turco was 33-31-10 with a 2.81 GAA and .898 save percentage in 2008-09, but this season he is off to a 1-0-3 start with a 2.12 GAA and .913 save percentage. It's clear that he's looking more like the Turco that carried the 2007-08 Stars to the Western Conference finals.
Begin likened Turco to Tim Thomas a bit, but claimed that the former Michigan Wolverines netminder is even more unorthodox than his new teammate.
"He's a different goalie, all over the place, even worse than Timmy," Begin said with a laugh. "He's fun to watch, though, and when he's on, he'll put on a good show."
So things won't get any easier for the Bruins in Dallas on Friday night, but Begin knows that his team must find its game and play it well.
"We know we're in for a battle and the first period will be big because that place [the American Airlines Center] can get going," he said. "We need to start playing our game and dictate the play right away."