While the home opener for the Boston Bruins is still a couple of days away, there’s no denying that they have played inspiring hockey since their first loss against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 at Prague resulting in a three-game winning streak. What’s perhaps even more impressive is the way they’ve been playing.
After Tuukka Rask started the first game in the Bruins 5-2 loss in the opener, Tim Thomas was brought in for the second game to conclude the trip. Thomas put in a solid 29 save performance in the 3-0 victory to help the Bruins salvage a split in Prague.
When the Bruins returned back to the states, coach Claude Julien decided to start Thomas against the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals. Thomas would put together impressive performances against Ilya Kovalchuk and company Saturday night in a 4-1 victory, and tonight he made 35 saves in the Bruins 3-1 win over Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals.
There’s no doubt that Thomas looks like the Vezina Trophy winner from 2008-09, but Bruins fans shouldn’t worry about a goaltending controversy this early in the year. Rask should certainly see his share of minutes down the road, and while Thomas has the hot hand right now, the fact is having two goaltenders of this caliber should really be beneficial to the Black and Gold down the road. We all knew that goaltending and defense were the strengths of the Bruins going into the season, and right now it looks like things are panning out for both Thomas and Rask.
As for the offense, it looks like things are improving already. During their two games in Prague, Nathan Horton scored three goals, Tyler Seguin scored his first career NHL goal and Milan Lucic contributed to the Bruins victory with his first goal of the year.
But during these past two games, the Bruins have been key contributions offensively. Michael Ryder, who many believed would be shipped to Providence when Marc Savard and Marco Sturm return to the lineup, is making a case to remain with the big club as he’s skating hard and finding his way to the net, while Seguin and Jordan Caron are giving Bruins fans optimism about the teams future, and the top line of Lucic, Horton and David Krejci have been clicking on all cylinders in the early going.
The play of the blue-line should also not go unnoticed these first few games. Despite Matt Hunwick’s blunder tonight in the second period that resulted in the Caps only goal (he would rebound from that with a goal in the third period), the Bruins defensemen have been minimizing mistakes. They’ve been patient in their own end for the most part, they’ve been hitting their entry passes and they’ve also been pinching in a lot to generate some offense.
While there have been some concerns about the Bruins so far, most notably on their power play, the fact is this team is clicking in the early going. The power play will improve when Savard returns to the lineup, but having a sniper like Horton in the meantime should help the power play unit. For now, the playmakers should find opportunities for Horton to get off a quick shot, while Lucic’s presence in front of the net could help generate some chances as well.
On Thursday, the Bruins return to the TD Garden for the first time since their heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in last years playoffs. Even though its early, the loss to the Flyers could be a distant memory if the Bruins can continue their success, as seen in their first four games of the 2010-11 season.