Reviewing a Champion (Part One of Three)

This is the first of a three-part series breaking down the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins’ 2010-11 season. In part one, I take a look at the first half of the regular season…

The Boston Bruins went into the 2010-11 season with a lot to prove after their epic collapse at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2011 playoffs. They acquired Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell in an offseason trade with the Florida Panthers (in which they dealt away Dennis Wideman), and picked up Tyler Seguin with the second overall pick in the 2010 Draft. It was their job to prove that they’d put frittering away a 3-0 series (and Game 7) lead over the Flyers behind them, and that they could get past the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Their season started off in Vermont during training camp and brought them to Prague, Czech Republic to start their regular season play. The first game was lost, but it was the second game of the season that was really the birth of a legend.

Tim Thomas was given the chance to start Game 2 of the two-game set with the Phoenix Coyotes after last season’s goalie Tuukka Rask looked shaky in Game 1. After that Thomas was able to rattle off seven straight wins to grasp Bruins history (Tiny Thompson held the previous record of six). Thomas would also earn three shutouts in this stretch.

The story was not only him, as Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic both got off to career-best starts. The Bruins showed their thunder on November 10th in an outstanding comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Down 4-2 going into the third period, Boston exploded for five third period goals. This began their reputation as the best third period team in the league.

Boston lost the next two games after that, but continued a steady pace that never really relented. There was a slight slump as they headed on a Florida road trip, but not many more issues than that. They would get two impressive wins in a row as they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 and then the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-1. The win over Philadelphia would be their first of three against the Flyers.

By the end of December, Thomas had established himself as the best goalie in the league and an early Vezina candidate. Heading into January, things were looking good for the B’s. It was on January 1st when things got crazy against the Buffalo Sabres. Boston was up 4-3 after just one period. Tuukka Rask had looked shaky but some scoring had put that behind him. Buffalo scored twice in the second, however, and pulled ahead of the Bruins going into the final period of play. Buffalo would score again but goals from Steven Kampfer and Tyler Seguin tied it as it headed into overtime. Unfortunately, Buffalo would get the shootout win. Drew Stafford scored three goals for the Sabres, and this was a tough loss for the Bruins to have to rebound from.

The Bruins won their next game in Toronto, but it was followed by losses to Montreal and Minnesota. There began to be some concerns about consistency with this Boston team. The Bruins would go on to win five of their next six, however, including wins over the Flyers and Penguins. The last game we look at before we begin the second half is a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Thomas allowed two goals to the Canes while Zdeno Chara picked up two assists.

With that, we leave you. next up is a look at the second half, in a game that caused plenty of havoc and may have been a turning point.

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