So much for the “trap-game” theory.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins shellacked visiting Calgary, 9-0, Thursday night.
The win was lopsided, despite Boston’s well-worn legs. The Bruins also played Wednesday night, knocking off New Jersey, 6-1.
The blowout came just days before the most anticipated game on Boston’s schedule. Saturday, the B’s take on the Vancouver Canucks, who played the part of feisty dance partner as Boston shuffled to a Stanley Cup victory in last year’s finals
The names and faces, for the most part, will be familiar to Vancouver. The on-ice product, though, is going to be vastly different.
Boston trudged into last year’s playoffs as the No. 3 seed. The team’s plus-51 goal differential was tops in the Eastern Conference, and trailed only Vancouver (+77) for tops in the league.
That Boston team was prodigious defensively, holding opponents to an Eastern Conference low 195 goals. Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy, and Zdeno Chara led a versatile corps of blueliners that routinely held even the best goal scorers in check.
The 2010-11 team scored its fair share, but what the Bruins are doing this season is shocking. The team leads the East with 3.65 goals per game, including the nine tallied Thursday. The next closest team is Philadelphia at 3.42, then Detroit at 3.26.
The B’s have tallied six or more goals 11 times this year. Last year, the team scored six-plus goals 11 times through the entire season.
All this, and the team’s leading scorer, Tyler Seguin, is tied for 22nd in the league with 36 points.
What this team has that last year’s didn’t is scoring depth, and it was shown blatantly Thursday.
“I’d like to think we have some good depth and are a well balanced hockey club,” coach Claude Julien said. “We take advantage of that.”
Twelve different Bruins registered on the scoresheet Thursday. Eight of them scored multiple points. Seven scored goals.
Tyler Seguin struck first 1:14 in, capitalizing on a nifty pass from Patrice Bergeron, who was in playmaking position after an equally nifty pass from Benoit Pouliot.
The next Boston goal came when Milan Lucic’s point-to-point pass attempt banked off Ollie Jokinen’s skate and knuckled into the Calgary net. When things go right…
David Krejci was next, converting a cross-boxer from Rich Peverley on a power play. In the second period, Bergeron and Chris Kelly scored 47 seconds apart, marking the 13th time Boston has scored multiple goals within a 60-second span this year.
Nathan Horton chased Flames goalie Leland Irving to the bench with a goal 4:15 into the second. Then Horton scored on Irving’s replacement, Miikka Kiprusoff.
Patrice Bergeron and Daniel Paille scored in the third, leading to the 9-0 final. Bruins’ fans went home having heard enough Zombie Nation to last a lifetime.
“I think we’ve said all along, we think we have a deep team,” Seguin said. “I haven’t checked who had what points tonight, but I’m pretty sure it was spread through the whole lineup. It’s definitely something we like and rely on.”
It was the latest in a collection of blowout victories for Boston this year. It raises an intriguing question – is this year’s Bruins team better than last year’s version? It’s a question made timely by Vancouver’s impending visit Saturday, and the answer is almost assuredly a resounding yes.
“We hope so,” Julien said. “We’ve matured and gotten better through the playoff experience, but we also have some young players that are better this year. We brought in some players that are fitting in well.
“Are we a better team? At the moment. Are we a going to be a better team at the end of the year? That’s up to us to make sure that happens.”