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Streak snapped

November 25, 2011

Benoit Pouliot bursts past Justin Abdelkader for a loose puck in this afternoon’s matinee.

All good things must end. Today, the Boston Bruins’ 10-game winning streak was one of those. After a thoroughly painful but partially anticipated October, Bruins fans were treated to a stunning November, in which the Bruins knocked one foe off after the next. If there was to be a time to lose, losing to the Wings in a shootout seems like an acceptable one. Today’s game, which had existed for two decades but never was televised nationally, will hopefully become tradition. Hearing Pierre McGuire a day after feasting might make one queasy, but it’s worth it. The game was well-played, fast and cerebral. It featured stellar goaltending, and was low-scoring while retaining enough pep and spark to keep the casual viewer tuned in (at least, I hope). The battle between Datsyuk and Krejci was a real treat. Have to hand it to both of them for their face-offs draws and unofficial deke-out contest. Good stuff.

But this post isn’t about the game. It’s about the streak.

Five things we learned from this streak? Let’s have at it.

1. Tyler Seguin is the beast we all thought he was. 

Mr Seguin showed Boston fans tiny glimpses of what he was capable of last season. Beautiful breakaways, Chiarelli’s aptly-described “dimensional speed,” excellent hand-eye coordination. But this year, he’s melded all these skills, added a huge dose of confidence, and brought it all together. When he has the puck on his stick, he’s going to make a great play or scoring chance 8/10. He still does a dumb thing a couple times a game. But that’s acceptable. What’s even more striking: his shot-blocking. And his diving and sliding to protect the goalie. That’s sacrifice. And he’s even throwing hits: he did today. Seguin has arrived.

2. Tim Thomas is still king.

Tuukka Rask guided the Bruins to a couple victories in the streak, and fell today. But Tim Thomas is still the stalwart goalie that will get the start. He is on pace for 55 starts this season, a reasonable figure, a good split. The “Trade Tuukka” cries will surely persist. But I hope Tuukka remains. The “he’s the face of the future” contingent is still strong. Thomas has demonstrated he can resume last year’s play–which wasn’t a certainty in November.

3. Claude Julien fired? Never! 

Like the “trade x,” “fire Claude” has always had its supporters. Even with the Bruins winning, many see holes in his coaching ability. Doesn’t know when to make in-game changes, sacrifices scoring opportunities for that goddamn defense, fails to tweak when systems clearly aren’t working, hasn’t helped an ounce on the power-play. Etc, etc. The Bruins’ power-play, while by no means lethal, has actually delivered a few goals of late. That’s something we should all remember next time there’s a dry spell (probably starting now). Julien knows how to run a sound team. And he just won a Cup. That excuse.

4. Benoit Pouliot can get emotional.

Pouliot had himself benched in Montreal earlier in the week, for good reason. He took two unnecessary penalties, one of which cost four minutes, for having made Subban bleed. He took a bad penalty in Buffalo the following game, but compensated by scoring the shootout winner. Point being, Pouliot isn’t afraid to elbow, hook, hi-stick. The Bruins haven’t had a player like that in a few years, and now isn’t the time. Most Bruins are fairly disciplined. What stands out about Pouliot is that the penalties don’t come during scoring chances. Pouliot trumps Caron right now, but he should be careful.

5. Chris Kelly was perhaps the most important 2010-2011 acquisition?

Horton and Peverley have added to the team hugely. It is more potent, more dynamic. But Chris Kelly is as solid as they come. A back-bone. He generates a few quality scoring chances a game, and is hardly the man behind a gaffe. He is dominant in his own little way. It’s really hard to articulate his value. He just is. Chris. Kelly.

BONUS: Johnny Boychuk struggles. 

Boychuk is a good distributor, has a smashing shot from the point, and is pretty quick. During the streak, he had more than a few lazy moments in which he directly created turnovers, wasn’t in position to protect the goalie or did little blind, behind-the-back passes that handed the puck to the opposing team and led to a goal. That probably shouldn’t continue.

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