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Chicken Little Wears Black-and-Gold

Posted By Matt Preston On Oct 16 2011 @ 12:08 am In Boston Bruins | 1 Comment

Not too long ago, ESPN the Magazine called it “Titletown,” but now it seems the sky is falling in Boston.

The Boston Red Sox just suffered possibly the worst September collapse in Major League history, missed the playoffs and now are a team in upheaval with fires to put out in both the clubhouse and the front office.

The Boston Celtics were a team in disarray when they were last on the court and are fixing to return as such if there is ever an NBA to speak of again.

The New England Patriots sport the NFL’s worst defense, ranking in the bottom of many major categories, forcing many to question of how legitimate of a contender they are, even though Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are on the verge of becoming the all-time winningest coach/quarterback tandem in the Super Bowl era.

And then there are the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins were the toast of the town when the season opened just nine days ago. Despite stealing a 3-2, shootout win from the Blackhawks this evening in Chicago, a 2-3-0 stumbling start to their season has left many in a panic, wondering what exactly is wrong with the Boston Bruins, the team that was to be the one shinning light amongst Boston’s recent sports woes?

The answer is quite simple, really.

Nothing.

Nothing is wrong with the Boston Bruins.

At least not yet, anyway.

Yes, the Bruins may be below .500, something that never happened in all of 2010-2011, and there are many a question that can already can be asked about this team. They are, however, still all of five games into the season. Isn’t it just a little too early to be hitting the panic button? The fact of the matter is the Bruins went 2-3 seven different times over the course of last season. It is far too small of a sample size to cash it in on the Bruins just yet. They are playing well. They are just not winning.

On the defensive end, the strength of the Bruins during the Claude Julien era, Boston has been performing well and they are once again at the top of the league in team defense. The Bruins’ 1.80 goals against per game ranks fifth in the NHL, while both Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask have shined this season. Both goaltenders have goals against averages under 2.00 at 1.98 and 1.02, respectively, with Rask playing beautifully, making 35 saves in his one outing of the season, a 1-0 lose to Colorado, and Thomas continuing his Vezina-level play, as seen in his numerous denials of Blackhawks sniper Patrick Kane on Saturday night.

Much like last year, however, it has been an inept offense that is the focal point of the Bruins struggles. Coming into tonight’s game against the Blackhawks, the Bruins had the fifth worst scoring offense in the league at just 1.75 goals per game, with the power play picking up right where it left off at the end of last season, operating at just a 5% clip (1-for-21), going steadily downhill after scoring on their very first man-advantage of the season. The first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton combined for just one goal and one assists in the team’s first three games (Krejci missed the last two contests with what has been deemed a core injury), a performance so maligned it led the trio to be called out by Julien for their lack of production, a rarity for the coach.

The offense and their inability to capitalize is the primary cause of despair when it comes to the Bruins slow start. Despite their poorly ranked offense, however, the Black-and-Gold faithful should not give up on their team just yet. Even with their low goal totals, the Bruins are still attacking more on the offensive end this season. Last year, there was not much production below the blue line for the B’s as the team more often than not capitalized on opponent’s mistakes rather than creating their own opportunities. This year has been different as more is being seen in terms of establishing an offensive zone presence and generating their own opportunities.

And what should encourage people the most is the two players leading the charge in creating that offense are two of the team’s youngest players: Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. Marchand, who is tied with line mate Rich Peverley for the team lead in goals (2), picked up right where he left off in the postseason as the sparkplug of what has been the team’s most productive line combination, playing alongside Peverley and center Patrice Bergeron.  Seguin, on the other hand, seems to be looking as though he will be taking a much farther step forward than hoped this season, leading the team in scoring (1G, 4A, 5pts) and looking dominant at times, such as with his highlight reel goal on Wednesday versus Carolina and the cross-zone pass made early against Chicago to a wide-open Lucic. Seguin has excelled to the point that Julien has moved the 19 year-old off the wing and back to his natural center position and given him Krejci’s place between Horton and Lucic.

The sky is not falling in Boston. Not just yet, anyway. The Red Sox have the ability to spend their way back to prominence. The Patriots are still 4-1, tied atop the AFC standings and have an offense that is as prolific as their defense is inept, which will keep them in contention as their young defense works to improve. The 2-3-0 Bruins have the opposite problem with an elite defense and an underwhelming offense, which is a far better problem to have. They are also all of two points behind Toronto and Buffalo for first place in the division with 77 games to play.

This is a new era of Bruins hockey. For once, let’s not panic just yet.

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