All Things Considered, Bruins in Good Position


Nov 13, 2009

All Things Considered, Bruins in Good Position Shortly after Cory Stillman beat Tim Thomas in the fourth round of Thursday night's shootout, the headlines spelling offensive gloom and doom for the Bruins came rushing back:

"Zero Hour"

"Scoreless ways return"

"Goal-scoring struggles continue"

Immediately, that brief two-game winning streak was forgotten. Their seven goals in two games were tossed aside, replaced with fearful words wondering if the early-season offensive futility had once again infiltrated the Bruins' locker room.

It was, in a word, premature.

For one, Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun was perfect. The Bruins weren't short on chances, and after the game, Thomas wasn't riding the emotional roller coaster.

"I’ve said this a million times, when you win a shootout, you feel too good about yourself, and when you lose a shootout, you feel too bad about yourself," Thomas said. "I don’t think you should mentally let yourself get down. It stinks not being able to finish up with the two points, but it wasn’t a step back like we just got dominated."

If any team was dominated on Thursday, it may have been the Panthers. The Bruins outshot Florida 19-1 in the second period, finishing the game with a 40-23 advantage. The B's also outshot the Panthers 4-2 in the overtime period, and even though the Panthers had a two-man advantage for more than a minute in the first period, they only got six shots on net in the opening frame.

Even Vokoun, who stopped 40 shots, plus another four in the shootout, said that the outcome could have been very different.

"I was lucky a couple times," Vokoun said. "One time, I think [Zdeno] Chara [had] the puck, took the shot, and it just hit my hand, and I didn’t even see the puck. Playing goal, you need to have a little bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time, and it all comes together. You can’t have success when the bounces go against you. I was fortunate that they were going for me."

On Thursday night, this wasn't the Bruins team that couldn't score for weeks — the team that scored three goals in a four-game span. It was simply a team that ran into a hot goaltender. And by picking up six out of a possible eight points in their last four games, the Bruins are doing all they need to be doing.

Of course, that's not thinking long-term, but the significance of the absence of both Marc Savard and Milan Lucic can't be understated. Not having Savard on the ice obviously limits the offense, and even though Lucic is far from a gifted goal scorer, his presence on the ice provides stability to the lines.

Without Lucic and Savard, it's clearly been a struggle for the team to find a consistent rhythm offensively, but as long as the B's continue to pick up points whenever possible, the team will be in a nearly ideal position when the roster once again becomes whole.

When both players were placed on long-term injury reserve, the understanding was that as long as the Bruins could keep their heads above water, they'd be in good position when they returned. Though perception may say they've gone backward, reality says otherwise.

The Bruins have gone 5-3-3 since losing Savard and Lucic, outscoring opponents 20-16 and picking up 13 of a possible 22 points. In that span, they faced some of the best teams in the East (New Jersey, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York Rangers).

The schedule won't get any easier either, with the Bruins' remaining November opponents combining for a record of 70-50-15. Lucic could return as early as next Thursday against the Thrashers, while Savard is expected back sometime in December.

In the meantime, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm, David Krejci and Blake Wheeler will have to continue to work as offensive leaders, while Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand will gain experience. Treading water isn't always the most exciting thing to watch, and at times, it can be downright frustrating. Still, in the absence of two star forwards, it's all the Bruins need to do.

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