Strong Efforts Make Bruins A Better Team

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The Boston Bruins have gone two for Florida and have won three straight games dating back to the Atlanta Thrashers match in Boston on December 23rd. In all, they have won four out of their last five games when you factor in the victory over Washington, which took place on December 18th.

After defeating the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida just 24 hours earlier, the B’s went into Tampa last night and won over a Lightning team that had lost just two out of its last nine games. The 4-3 win came on Hall of Famer Ray Bourque‘s birthday and combined with a Montreal loss, moved the Bruins two points ahead of the Canadiens in the Northeast division standings. More importantly, Boston is just five points behind second place Washington in the Eastern conference standings.

This game against Tampa Bay was a big one for more reasons than the standings. It gives the Bruins momentum and confidence as they prepare to take on Atlanta again on Thursday night in Georgia.

It was a huge game for the B’s Marc Savard and Steven Kampfer. Playing in his 794th career game, Savard who hails from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada recorded his 700th career point when he assisted on rookie defenseman, Steven Kampfer’s 1st career NHL goal. It was Savard’s 494th career assist.

Mark Recchi scored the winning goal on the power play in Tampa. The goal was the 89th game winner and 199th career power play goal for the 42 year old winger. For anyone who has been watching hockey for a few years, I ask you, how many players have you seen play better than Recchi after their 40th birthday? Sorry. All those names you are shouting played well but not better than Mark Recchi.

Tim Thomas. What more can be said about Boston’s all everything goaltender? He continues to show the hockey world that he is the league’s most valuable player game in and game out. He stopped 31 of 34 shots against the Lightning. He continues to lead the National Hockey League in goals against average, save percentage, and shut outs. He has 18 wins and only trails Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Montreal’s Carey Price, who each have 19 wins at this point.

Unfortunately, the Bruins defensemen do not get as much credit as they deserve. Zdeno Chara gets the most attention but he is not having the kind of season fans have come to expect from him and they are beginning to sour on the 6 foot 9 inch defender. The one defenseman on the team who gets next to no ink but is, arguably, the most reliable blue liner this season is Andrew Ference. He is 418th in league scoring but he is 9th in the league in plus/minus with a plus 15. Simply put that means he has been on the ice for 15 more goals for than goals against. Pittsburgh Penguin, Sidney Crosby, leads the NHL with a plus 21. This stat is somewhat obscure to most hockey fans but as a coach, I can tell you it is extremely helpful. A coach uses that to determine who he can rely on in certain situations. It is most useful when the team is protecting a lead at the end of a game. Coaches are not going to put defensemen on the ice who have a higher minus rating than a plus rating. The coach needs to know who his most reliable defenders are and its a safe bet you will see Ference on the ice to ensure the B’s hold onto leads late in games. Ference has improved steadily since coming to Boston from the Calgary Flames in February, 2007 and he is enjoying his best season to date.

The game in Atlanta on Thursday night is the final game for December, 2010. A win will close out the month on a very positive note. The Bruins enter the contest with 9 wins, 3 losses, and 1 OT loss. Already, quite the turn around from what looked like a lost month just two weeks ago. If the club can finish the month with 10 wins, that would set them up for a run at first place overall in the Eastern conference standings, which is where this writer expects the team to finish when all is said and done. January through April should be very interesting.

Remember to go to http://vote.nhl.com/ and vote for Tim ThomasPatrice BergeronZdeno Chara, and David Krejci, for the 2011 NHL All Star Game.

For all news pertaining to the NHL in general…..please visit  Too Many Men on the Site – Fansided`s excellent coverage of the Greatest Game on Ice !

Shawn Hutcheon can be followed on twitter by going to www.twitter.com/@shawnhutcheon. You can become his friend on facebook by going to www.facebook.com/shawnhutcheon.

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Tags: Andrew Ference Atlanta Atlanta Thrashers Boston Boston Bruins Calgary Flames Canada David Krejci Eastern Conference Florida Panthers Georgia Marc Savard Mark Recchi Montreal Canadiens National Hockey League NHL NHL All Star Game Northeast Division Ontario Ottawa Patrice Bergeron Pittsburgh Penguins Ray Bourque Sidney Crosby Steven Kampfer Tim Thomas Washington Capitals Zdeno Chara

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