The Bruins have continued to rack up the games as they make up for their light early-season schedule thanks to starting the year in Prague. After 14 games in November, they play another 14 in December, including a quick three-game homestand this week.
With so much going on, there's bound to be a few things that you may have missed. So in the latest installment of the Bruins Shootout, we'll take a look at a half dozen items that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks during the past week.
1. There's an unusual scoring race going on in the NHL. Shawn Thornton, the Bruins' resident tough guy, has turned into a bit of a sniper this season. With five goals through 25 games, he's already just one off his career high set back in 79 games in 2008-09. But it's not just his personal best that he's out to beat. Thornton's scoring splurge has coincided with a surprising slow start by New Jersey's $100-million man, as Ilya Kovalchuk also has five goals through 25 games this season. When the stat was brought to Thornton's attention, he responded with mock indignation. "Do you think anyone in New Jersey is talking to him about this?" asked Thornton. "Probably not, but I hope so."
Thornton, of course, is signed for a slightly more reasonable rate than Kovalchuk's 15-year deal. So will the tough guy be looking for $100 million himself if he tops Kovalchuk's goal total this season? "I have two more years left on my deal, so I guess we'll have to wait," said Thornton, who signed a two-year, $1.625-million deal this summer.
2. Thornton might be giving Kovalchuk a battle in the goal department, but he isn't faring as well when it comes to distributing the puck. Thornton has just one assist this season, and was passed in that category by Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. Thomas picked up his second assist of the year last Thursday against Tampa Bay, ironically on Thornton's fifth goal. "He doubled my assist output?" said Thornton. "I'm a disher too. I'm going to have to work on that."
3. The Bruins continue to face a strange schedule in the month of December. After playing six games against Southeast Division teams and just three against rivals in their own Northeast Division in November, this month the Bruins play Southeast foes six times again, with just four games within their own division. In one stretch from Nov. 18-Dec. 2, six of the eight games Boston played were against Southeast clubs, and the Bruins will end December with four in a row against that division.
4. After playing in 19 shootouts last season, the Bruins have been in just three so far this season. It's probably just as well that they are playing less this year, as Boston is 0-3 in shootouts. The only Bruin who has scored is rookie Tyler Seguin, who is 2-for-3 so far in the breakaway competition. The rest of the team is a combined 0-for-9, with Michael Ryder particularly snakebit at 0-for-3. Ryder's had some bad luck, as two of those attempts beat the goalie, only to clang off the post. But he hasn't exactly excelled in shootouts in his career either, as he's just 4-for-25 overall. That includes going just 3-for-16 as a Bruin, with just two goals on 10 chances last year and one on three tries two years ago.
5. Dennis Seidenberg scored one of the stranger goals of the season last Thursday when he faked a dump-in to the corner, then fired the puck on net from outside the blue line, catching Tampa goalie Mike Smith leaving his crease early and putting it into the open cage. But that goal was unusual for more than just the way it went in. It was also a rare goal from a Boston defenseman this year. In fact, with Matt Hunwick (1 goal in 22 games) now gone, no Bruin blueliner other than Zdeno Chara had a goal this year until Seidenberg's strange strike. And even Chara (4 goals) hasn't scored in 12 games. The Bruins need to generate some more offense from their defense, and getting some goals from more traditional blasts from the point would help.
6. Putting more shots on net than your opponent is supposed to be a good thing. But the Bruins don't seem to be buying into that this year. They're just 4-4-1 when outshooting their opponent, but 10-4-2 when they get outshot. That trend holds true even when the numbers get especially high, as the Bruins are just 1-2-1 when they've had 40 or more shots in a game, but are 3-1-1 when they give up 40 or more.