Tim Thomas courtesy:Yardbarker.com

Bruins All Stars And The Playoff Race

The 2010 National Hockey League All Star Weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina has come and gone. It was a very successful weekend for the NHL. The skills competition, as always, was fun to watch, especially, the fastest goalie skating race between Carolina Hurricanes’ goalie Cam Ward and Bruin Tim Thomas. Had Thomas not lost an edge in a corner, he easily would have won the race. Somehow, it was fitting that Ward won in front of his home fans. B’s defenseman, Zdeno Chara, won the hardest shot contest for the third time in four years with a slap shot that reached 105.9 mph. It was the hardest recorded shot in All Star Skills Competition history. Nashville Predator defenseman, Shea Weber also broke the 100 mph barrier with a 103 mph slap shot.

The All Star game itself, which featured Thomas and Chara on opposite teams due to the new format where each team’s captains and their alternates chose the teams in a televised draft, started out as the anticipated non-physical game of keep away. After all, this game takes place during the season and the last thing anyone wants is to see an injury occur. The game started out slowly but once the competitive juices began to flow, the pace picked up and there were scoring chances aplenty from both sides. Team Lidstrom pulled out the victory over Team Staal, 11-10. Despite playing on the losing squad, Chicago Blackhawks forward, Patrick Sharp, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player with a goal and two assists. Sharp also recorded a plus 2 and 5 shots on goal.

The most incredible statistics from the game were Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom’s plus 7  while his blueline partner for the game, Nashville’s Weber was a plus 6. Weber also recorded 4 assists in his team’s win.

Bruins captain, Chara, posted 2 assists and was a plus 1 for the event. He took just one shot on goal. The other Boston representative, Thomas, played in the 3rd period for Team Lidstrom. His twenty minutes of work resulted in 11 saves on 15 shots. He was credited with the win which makes him the winning goaltender of record for three consecutive NHL All Star Games.  The game’s statistics can be found here http://www.nhl.com/ice/boxscore.htm?id=2010040058

B’s rookie, Tyler Seguin also took part in the NHL All Star festivities on and off the ice. See the New England Sports Network’s Naoko Funayama’s report on Seguin’s first taste of being an NHL All Star here, http://www.nesn.com/2011/01/tyler-seguin-gets-taste-of-what-being-nhl-all-star-is-all-about.html. This is sure to be Seguin’s first of many trips to the All Star weekend.

With the NHL’s mid-season showcase completed, the teams will now focus on the stretch run. Most of the league’s franchises are in the playoff hunt. As of now, only Toronto, Ottawa, New York Islanders, and the New Jersey Devils appear to be on the outside of the playoff picture in the East. The Western Conference is embroiled in a tight race for playoff positioning. The San Jose Sharks sit in the eighth and final playoff spot. However, anyone looking at the standings will see they are a mere five points ahead of fourteenth place St. Louis. Only the Edmonton Oilers can make their vacation plans at this point. But…let it be said here, the Oilers are a young, hungry, and extremely talented group, who will be contending for the Stanley Cup within two or three years.

The Bruins will meet Chara, Thomas, and Seguin, in Raleigh today and prepare to take on the Hurricanes on Tuesday. The black and gold have won two out of three meetings with Carolina this season. The franchise that left Hartford for the warmer climes of the American south are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and trail their Southeast division rivals, Atlanta, by one point. The B’s will return home following their meeting with the Hurricanes and will play five out of their next six in the friendly confines of TD Garden. None of those games will be easy as the Dallas Stars, San Jose, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, will look to leave Beantown with two points each. The one road game for the Bruins during that stretch will be in Detroit. The club will finish the month of February on a six game road trip that will take them to Western Canada and extend into March.

This is the time of year all hockey players live for. As the playoffs draw near, each game becomes more important. The Bruins are in good position in the Eastern Conference. They are four points ahead of Montreal which places the B’s in third place in the conference. The February portion of the schedule may be the toughest stretch of the season for Boston. How the team fairs against some of the league’s iron could determine how seriously they will be viewed as Stanley Cup contenders this coming spring. One thing is for sure, it is up to the club’s All Stars, Thomas, Chara, and to a lesser degree, Seguin, to lead the way.

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Tags: 2010 All Star Game All Star Skills Competition Atlanta Thrashers Beantown Boston Boston Bruins Cam Ward Canada Carolina Hurricanes Chicago Blackhawks Dallas Stars Detroit Red Wings Eastern Conference Edmonton Oilers Montreal Canadiens Most Valuable Player Naoko Funayama Nashville Predators National Hockey League New England Sports Network New Jersey Devils New York Islanders NHL North Carolina Northeast Division Ottawa Senators Patrick Sharp Playoffs Raleigh San Jose Sharks Shea Weber Southeast Division St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup TD Garden Team Lidstrom Team Staal Tim Thomas Toronto Maple Leafs Tyler Seguin Western Canada Western Conference Zdeno Chara

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