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An Embarrassment of Riches

Posted By Matt Preston On Jan 6 2012 @ 9:54 pm In Boston Bruins | 2 Comments

You know what the hardest thing about being a sports writer is?

Covering a good team.

Sounds odd, right? Look at it like this: The whole purpose of a position like this is to provide critical analysis of a given team or a given game. Critical analysis. And when things are going as well as they have been for the Boston Bruins, it is difficult to be critical. No one wants to read piece after piece about how everything is all sunshine and rainbows, but then you will get called out for ripping a team that is second in the entire NHL, has won nine of their last 10 games and has the one team above all other in the NHL that should really want to stick it to them running scared. But, more on the Vancouver Canucks a little later.

Never in my life did I think the Boston Bruins being good would be a bad thing.

It has been an embarrassment of riches of late for the Bruins. They are second in the league and in the conference, just one point behind the New York Rangers, but lead the league in wins (26). Despite having just one player in the top 30 in the league in scoring (Tyler Seguin is 23rd with 16 goals and 20 assists), the Bruins lead the league in goals per game (3.65) and third period goal differential (+34).

Their league leading team plus/minus of +58 (the Bruins also have the top four players in the league in that category) proves the defense is just as good as Boston leads the league in goals against per game (1.84) and is the only team in the NHL with two netminders with goals against averages below 2.00. Bruins starter Tim Thomas is third in the league in goals against at 1.90, second in save percentage at .940 and is tied for second in shutouts with four in 24 starts on the season. As dazzling as those numbers are, backup netminder Tuukka Rask has been as impressive as he leads the league in both goals against average (1.49) and save percentage (.949), has shutouts in three of his last four starts, and has giving up just one goal in his last five appearances.

Even the special teams are near the top of the lead as the Bruins are seventh on the power play (19.7%) and fourth on the penalty kill (87.7%).

The Bruins have yet to lose a game they led heading into the third period (20-0-0) and lost just once (11-1-0) when leading after the first. They have only lost three games in regulation since a three game losing streak to close out October.

In their game last night against the Calgary Flames, the perfect game for the Bruins to lay down, getting caught looking ahead to the rematch with their Stanley Cup opponent Canucks tomorrow, the Bruins did just the opposite and rolled Calgary. They hung a season high nine goals on the low ranked Flames, giving up none. No matter what seems to come their way, the Bruins just continue to excel.

The biggest problem for the Bruins right now seems to be Rich Peverley’s inability to hit the net.

Injuries are ever present and threaten every team in the NHL and the Bruins have been incredibly lucky over the past few seasons in that department. General manager Peter Chiarelli, however, has built the team in such a deep and balanced fashion that with the re-emergence of Rask this season, it is hard to believe that the only way even injuries could derail the Bruins is if they were to sustain an overly inflated number of injuries to the top of their rotation for excessively long periods of time.

More likely than not, the biggest issue the Boston Bruins actually face and the biggest fear for Bruins fans once tortured by years of just waiting for the other shoe to drop is whether or not Boston is peaking too early as they have yet to hit the midway point on their schedule? Where are their other flaws?

It is hard to believe anyone is perfect, but it is all sunshine and rainbows at the moment for the Boston Bruins and seems to be getting even better for the Bruins as they will face off against the Canucks tomorrow for the first time since Game 7 of last season’s Stanley Cup Final. Coming off back-to-back road wins against the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flame that saw the Bruins outscore their opponents 15-1, the Bruins were met today with news that Canucks starting goaltender Roberto Luongo, coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Minnesota Wild in his last start on Wednesday and the victim of an 8.05 goals against average over his three games in Boston during last year’s Final, will be starting the game on the bench.

Coming into the week, most should have said that Calgary was the trap game, but with the way Vancouver is playing their goaltenders, proving the team’s fear of the Bruins given Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault’s refusal to answer questions on why Luongo is getting benched, is it possible that the trap game of Vancouver Week for the Bruins has become the Bruins game itself?

It is possible, but right now, for even the biggest cynics around, things are just too good to not believe in Boston.

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