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A 52 save night

May 3, 2011

Picture of a team that’s starting to love winning. 

I think that the caption on this photo explains it all. This is a team that in the course of the last two and a half weeks has learned to love winning. It’s a team that’s finally beginning to gel. The trades and acquisitions made at the deadline and their value are finally being realized. The team is functioning as a cohesive unit and all parties are contributing, from bow to stern. Everyone’s in. Even Tomas Kaberle, for all the kvetching, the truth is that he may be contributing to puck movement in ways that simply aren’t readily visible on the scoresheet. He’s been held with too few points for too long. But I think his defensive game has improved by leaps and bounds and that a different style of play is being required of him, one which he is taking his time to adjust to. He simply couldn’t play as he did in Toronto. Just as Tyler Seguin can’t play as he did in Plymouth. And just as countless Bruins under Julien’s system take a little bit longer. That’s normal.

Returning to the main point here, it’s clear that the Bruins are capable of performing in high-stakes, high-risk, high-reward situations, and with aplomb. There was a time during the regular season when an overtime or shootout situation was considered a lost cause for the Bruins, because they almost never won in those situations. Ever. Now, the exact opposite is true. As painful as overtime may be for a fan, it’s clear the Bruins have their team under control.

And it’s clear Tim Thomas has the team under control. He turned in an otherworldly performance last night, diving, kicking and flying around the crease to stop every puck in sight, including no fewer than four James Van Riemsdyk drives that should have been goals (albeit letting in two early ones from the youngin’). Still, Tim Thomas is kicked into overdrive right now.

Tim Thomas, indeed, was the likely reason why the Bruins won last night. The Flyers drilled into the Bruins in the second half of the game and into overtime, pinching in and peppering Thomas with shots. It was sheer chaos on the ice at points. The Flyers were hungrier than they were in the game one and didn’t seem to suffer the absence of Pronger too much, but it’s unclear just how much better they’d be with a healthy number 20 in the line-up. Still, despite adversity, the Bruins pushed onward. That’s the trick, I suppose, is to demand types of performance of yourself that may be beyond your skill level or the expectations of others. That’s how winning happens. And the Bruins are being portrayed as something of an underdog compared with the Flyers, so this is a necessity.

The real question is, though, can they keep this up? A repeat of last year is still possible. But I dare say it’s not probable.

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