The Boston Bruins had a productive seven days last week. They climbed to the top of both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference on the strength of the 3-0-1 run. When the Bruins played to their value system they were mostly rewarded for their efforts. They put up two points in both home and away tilts against the Carolina Hurricanes. They played their weakest game of the week against the New York Rangers but solid goaltending allowed the Bruins to put up a 2-1 win. Ironically, their best technical game of the week was against one of the best teams in the west, the St. Louis Blues. There a fluke goal led to an overtime shootout which the Bruins dropped in the fourth round.
The Bruins are finally starting to play their strengths. With just a little more production from key members, there is no doubt the Bruins can cement their place in both division and conference and be poised to make yet another deep run in the playoffs. Here are Causeway Crowd’s Three Stars of the week.
Third Star: Reilly Smith. Remember when a lot of us said “Reilly who?” when the Eriksson-Seguin trade was announced on July fourth? Smith was one of those players we assumed would be spending time in both Boston and Providence this season. Smith saw an opportunity to shine during training camp and has grabbed it and dug in with a feverish intensity. On several occasions Claude Julien has bumped him up a line, and he has been a solid producer for the team. Smith is currently in third for overall scoring for the Bruins (behind Milan Lucic and David Krejci). He put up two goals and two assists last week for Boston, and plays like a Bruin. He plays the body, he has a great hockey IQ, and has been the biggest surprise for us so far this season.
Second Star: Carl Soderberg. Soderberg was one of those players that started out slow due to recovering from an early season injury. (It was Soderberg’s injury that opened the door for Reilly Smith.) Soderberg also put up four points for the Bruins last week. Soderberg plays with intensity and the current pairing of Soderberg with Smith on the Kelly line has made a lot of the fans breathe a sigh of relief. For the most part, the troubles that have plagued the third line for the last few seasons have been solved. Both wingers compliment each other well, and the chemistry between the Bruins veteran, the young player from the Stars, and the Scandinavian ice yeti have produced impressive dividends so far with the Bruins third line.
First Star: Tuukka Rask. Tuukka Rask is allowed to have the once in a season god awful fluke goal. He had that one against the St. Louis Blues. He was still solid in that game for the Bruins though. The Bruins primary netminder went 2-0-1 for the Black and Gold last week. He was a bulwark for us against the Hurricanes, and Rask did everything but score the goals himself in the match against the Rangers. He stopped ninety of ninety four shots on goal last week(.957%!), including a career equaling forty three saves against the Rangers who threw everything (including the kitchen sink) at Rask. When the Bruins have not played to their identity, Tuukka Rask has played to his.
A few sportswriters took to calling Rask unprofessional after flipping out at the end of the Blues game. That anger is a symbol of his competitiveness and his desire to win for his team. We saw it in Providence, we see it in Boston. This is a man who an entire franchise and fan base have put their hopes on, and he has delivered for all of us.