Five Minute Major – 10.28

5MM2A week ago, in this very spot, the multitude of changes made to the Bruins’ lineup were discussed. How would the team react to losing its best player and its biggest source of energy? Would chemistry be messed up because Chuck Kobasew was traded? Were Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand ready for NHL roles after staring in Providence?

Seven days and three games later, it is safe to say that reports of the Bruins’ death have been greatly exaggerated. The Black and Gold have picked up five of a possible six points since the injuries and trades, showing the ability to come back on teams and gut out wins when a loss was all but certain.

After a flirtation with rock bottom in a 4-1 loss at Phoenix, the B’s have utilized a late goal from fourth-line agitator Steve Begin to down Nashville, taken a well-rested Philly team to a shootout the next night before Claude Giroux busted out the old Gordon Bombay “triple deke” for the win, and then scored twice in the final 1:28 to steal a point from Ottawa before a few pipe-shots allowed the Bruins to leave Canada with a second divisional point.Bs Ottawa

Much will be made about the Bruins going on this little streak with a depleted lineup and how it shows that this team is gutty, gritty, feisty or any other of the fun names associated with underdog teams. However, I offer that any team getting 5-of-6 in a three-game stretch is an accomplishment. For ridiculousness’ sake, if the Bruins did that all season, they would have about 135 points.

Now, will this inspired play last? Hard to say. Home games with New Jersey (10/29) and Edmonton (10/31) followed by a roadie against New York on 11/1 are up next for the B’s. The Devils and Oilers are about even with Boston right now while the Rangers have scored the most goals in the NHL and are 8-3-1 on the season. A sustained level of play over the next trio of games will be a much clearer indicator of how long this team can go as currently constituted.

As for the five things you need to know about the past week or this weekend…It’s time to serve this week’s “Five Minute Major.”

  1. If I had to choose a Player of the Week for the Bruins, it would be a tough choice between Tim Thomas and Derek Morris. The Tank had two wins this week, making 55 saves on 60 shots. He made 13 stops in the third period against the Predators to solidify the win, including three big stops in the final minute. On Saturday against Ottawa, he made his best save of the season on Daniel Alfredsson, diving to his left and getting his upper body over to rob Alfredsson of a goal. A little puck luck in the shootout sent pucks off posts and gave his team a chance to score. Morris, on the other hand, had perhaps his best week as a Bruin with a goal and four assists. He scored a PPG in Philly and assisted on Begin’s game-tying goal. In Ottawa on Saturday, he truly showed why he was brought to Beantown, with two helpers in the final 1:28 to get the B’s to overtime. His shot from the point was deflected by Mark Recchi for the first comeback goal. Then, with 22 ticks left, Morris faked a slap shot and passed to a wide open David Krejci for the equalizer. Really heady plays from the blueliner who now leads the team in assists (6) and is tied for the point lead (7.) If I had to choose, I am going with Thomas because goalies trump everyone else and the B’s needed Timmy to revert back to his crazy acrobat days instead of his complacent fat-cat form brought to the first week of the season.
  2. The injuries and trades shuffled the roster for coach Claude Julien and the lines he ended up with haven’t been all that bad. Eight different players have scored a goal under the new lineup and players like David Krejci and Blake Wheeler who had struggled to find offense have scored. Krejci’s goal was huge on Saturday, not only for the team in that game but for him personally. He had plenty of opportunities all year despite no preseason games to loosen up and for the first one to go in is a relief for him. Much like in 2007-08 when he played an increased role when Savard was injured, this next month should allow Krejci to flourish again with more important minutes.
  3. The two kids called up from Providence have acclimated themselves well. Vladimir Sobotka is filling the role of third-line center very well. He thrives on body contact, establishing his presence down low and forcing defensemen to make quick decisions rather than setup breakouts. This month-long stint with the big club could do one of two things. Either it implants Sobotka as a key member of this club for the long haul and forces someone else to be moved, or it makes Sobotka a nice trade chip down the road. Last year, the B’s dealt Martins Karsums and Matt Lashoff to Tampa Bay for Mark Recchi. Neither of those guys were anywhere near Sobotka’s level and they returned a key cog for last year and this year. Personally, I hope Sobotka sticks in Boston as his style of play has a little Pat Verbeek in him (shoutout to all you Whalers fans) and every team needs someone you can nickname “The Little Ball of Hate.”
  4. Brad Marchand, the other kid brought up last week has had an up Brad Marchandand down first week as an NHL-er. In his first career game, he picked up an assist against Nashville with a good effort along the boards to win the puck before throwing a pass to a streaking Michael Ryder (it’s okay, I mean streaking as in skating fast … not like Frank the Tank.) The next night against the Flyers he learned that even the bad players on NHL teams are faster and stronger than the best players on AHL teams when Aaron Asham blew by him to score Philly’s third goal. The wakeup call sunk in and in Ottawa he was much more sound, taking two shots and throwing two hits. He brings an edge to his game despite his small stature. Listed at 5-11 (but more like Pedroia on skates) he is known as a yapper on the ice and works hard at getting under opposing players’ skin. In his last week down in Providence, he said or did something that caused a Portland Pirates player to come off the bench and start a fight with him after a whistle. Can he work at that level in the NHL? After a week getting his feet wet, we may soon find out.
  5. I touched on this earlier this week at Boards and Blades, but people who are ready to blow up the Bruins’ penalty kill and start bringing back any player who once was on the PK need to settle down. Yes, the Bruins are in the bottom third of the league at 75.6%. However, over the last three games, the B’s are a perfect 8-for-8. Of the 10 PPGs allowed this year, two came in the opener against the Caps (who only have the league’s best player on the team in Alex Ovechkin) and two came on one shift by Teemu Selanne (a guy with 584 career goals – and 209 on the power play – is dangerous on a 5-on-3, FYI.) I think a better way to look at the Bruins’ penalty killing is ‘hit and miss.’ Four times the B’s have allowed two PPG in a game. On the other hand, the Bruins killed 9-of-10 against Carolina and 6-of-7 against the Islanders in addition to the three-game shutdown last week. People who feel that bringing back Stephane Yelle now that he was waived by the ‘Canes will solve any supposed “issues” are reaching. To that, I say Yelle has no real spot on this team except for maybe killing penalties. This isn’t baseball where you can stash Mike Myers in your bullpen for one batter or wake Matt Stairs up in the 8th inning for one swing of the bat. Players need to have a role for 60 minutes. Yelle is no better at a 60-minute game than anyone on the Bruins right now. Now, if the PK has real issues in February when it’s getting close to money time, well then changes need to be made from outside.

Your Five Minute Major has been served.

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