The Bruins had a three-game winning streak snapped in Washington on Friday, then lost a hard-fought contest to the Blues in a shootout on Saturday, but there's still plenty of positives to take out of the early stages of the season as Boston has opened the year at 7-3-1.
In the latest installment of Off the Boards, we'll take a look at a half dozen items that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks during the past week.
1. What could have been a controversial move was turned into a valuable teaching moment on Saturday. Bruins coach Claude Julien shortened his bench in the third period against the Blues, limiting the ice-time of rookies Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron in favor of his veteran forwards. Julien insisted it wasn't a punishment for the youngsters, but strictly a strategic move as the Bruins attempted to rally from a goal down. It worked out as Greg Campbell scored to force overtime, and Seguin responded by scoring Boston's only goal in the shootout, then affirming on Monday that it was a lesson he will remember and learn from.
2. The Bruins head to Pittsburgh for the first time this season on Wednesday, marking their first return to the city (albeit not to the same rink as the hallowed Igloo is no more) since Matt Cooke's brutal cheap shot on Marc Savard last March. The Bruins were roundly criticized for their lack of response on the ice that night and in the rematch in Boston, save for a brief bout between Shawn Thornton and Cooke. But this year the Bruins have shown a better commitment to sticking up for each other. That was most recently shown on Saturday when Andrew Ference immediately went after St. Louis' David Backes after a hit on Mark Recchi. Backes' hit was legal and nothing like Cooke's viscous cheap shot, but it was still good to see Ference show no hesitation in going after the bigger man after seeing a teammate laid out.
3. Brad Boyes came back to haunt the Bruins one more time on Saturday when he scored the deciding goal in St. Louis' shootout victory at the Garden. The trade that sent Boyes to the Blues for Dennis Wideman was tough to take when he was scoring 43 and 33 goals in his first two seasons in St. Louis, but that pain eased as his scoring pace slowed (14 goals last least, 1-4-5 totals through 12 games this season). And now that Wideman has been flipped to Florida to help land Nathan Horton (team-leading 6-5-11 through 11 games) and Campbell (Boston's only goal to force OT on Saturday), that particular chain of events should only bring smiles to Bruins fans.
4. Speaking of trades, while Peter Chiarelli has done some solid work to upgrade the Bruins' organizational depth, trades have been his most effective tool in shaping the current roster. Of the 25 players currently with the team (including the injured Savard and Marco Sturm and Brian McGrattan, who was put on waivers on Monday), only eight were originally drafted by Boston (and just two of them while Chiarelli was GM). By comparison, 10 current players were acquired via trade and seven were signed as free agents.
5. With so many deals, it's not surprising there are so many Bruins connections around the league. The current Bruins' roster features players who have been in 23 other organizations, including every Eastern Conference team except New Jersey, and the Bruins have that covered as Julien coached the Devils before coming to Boston. Meanwhile, all but four teams in the league have at least one ex-Bruin on their current roster. And those four teams — the Rangers (assistant coach Mike Sullivan, assistant GM Jeff Gorton), Pittsburgh (assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald), Atlanta (head coach Craig Ramsay) and Los Angeles (director of pro development Mike O'Connell) — all have front office or coaching ties.
6. There isn't much that unnerves Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. The towering 6-foot-9 blueliner is usually the one doing the intimidating on the ice. But put a little bit of the slippery stuff on the road with Chara behind the wheel and it's a much different story. Chara entertained his teammates and media members alike in the locker room after practice on Monday as he recounted his harrowing drive to practice after the first bit of wintry precipitation of the season. Somehow it's comforting to know that the guy who had no problem dropping the gloves with the likes of Georges Laraque and Donald Brashear can get scared by a little sleet. Hopefully he'll find someone to carpool with before the real snow starts falling.
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