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Oil drilled in overtime

Solid two-way hockey effort in a 1-0 overtime win [1]over the Edmonton Oilers [2] last night helped kick off a character-testing three game road trip into the hockey hotbeds of western Canada. The defense was crisp and supportive in the box-and-one style preached by Claude Julien [3], and the offense finally deliverd in the extra session and saved the B’s from another bittersweet fate in the shootout.

A few interesting things to ponder after watching Dennis Wideman [4] bury the second goal for a Bruins blueliner this season — with Wideman accounting for both defenseman lamp-lighters:

–The Bruins defenseman had talked last week about stepping up their offensive production and helping support the goal-scoring load largely carried by the forwards, and Wideman’s blasts from the point became the focal point of the power play enjoyed by the Black and Goal in overtime. Wideman picked up a pair of assists in the 5-4 win over the Trashers on Saturday and notched the game-winner last night, and is an offensively-gifted defenseman that should be develop into a key part of Boston’s offensive efforts. Wideman has the best purely offensive skills among Boston’s D-man corps, and seems to be finding that elusive balance between offense/defense for a rear guardsmen.

“There’s a vocal demand for the defenseman to jump in, but you’ve got to do it and not forget about your defensive responsibilities,” said D-man Aaron Ward [5] prior to the B’s embarking on their three game road trip. “It’s great when you do it and we have the same goals against [as last season]. As much as [the defenseman] are not showing up in the scoreboard, there is a definitive defensive effort being shown out there.”

–The “energy line” of Shawn Thornton [6], Petteri Nokelainen and Stephane Yelle gave the B’s a bucket full of jump and jam for the second straight game, and allowed Bruins coach Claude Julien to roll through all four lines without hesitation. Nokelainen used his tenacity on the puck to draw a penalty late in the third period that could have set the Bruins up to win it in regulation, and the trio has gelled a unit that’s become an asset rather than a bunch of skaters at the end of the lines that a coach is loathe to give ice time to.

The one thing we’€™ve been trying to get this year, talking about trying to improve our hockey club, was to get a line, an energy line, whatever you want to call it, the fourth line, that could help contribute as well as give us energy,” said Julien of Nokelainen/Yelle/Thornton after Saturday’s win. “[They] gave us the spark that we needed.”

Tim Thomas [7] was huge throughout his 27 saves en route to his eighth career shutout, and made a game-saving stop when he leapt to smother a Ales Hemsky blast in the waning seconds of the third period. Claude Julien has essentially rotated Thomas and Manny Fernandez [8] evenly in the early going for the B’s, but it may be time to ride last season’s All-Star goaltender a little bit.

The B’s netminder is fully aware that he can’t physically handle a 70 plus game workload during the season and needs breathers fairly often, but the 34-year-old is clearly giving the Black and Gold their best chance to win right now. Fernandez’s time will no doubt regain his full stride and he was able to hang in for Saturday’s win over the Thrashers, but there’s no doubt that Thomas is just that much sharper between the pipes at this point in the season.

–Also interesting to note the ice time that forwards received in the overtime game, and that the three top ice- time deserving forwards were David Krejci [9], Marc Savard [10] (19:45) and Phil Kessel [11] (19:23), with Krejci logging a whopping 20:40 during the overtime game. The cerebral Krejci just keeps earning more confidence and trust from the Bruins coaching staff, who clearly see a smart player consistently making excellent decisions with the puck in all game situations. Krejci’s hockey sense and improved shot have really stood out over the first nine games of the season.