|Three things learned from B’s win over Senators||10.25.09 at 9:29 am ET|
When things are all said and done this season for the Bruins, there will be a series of hard-fought, memorable character wins deposited in the bank if the Black and Gold hockey club hopes to find glory and success on the frozen sheet. The kind of accomplishment that followed them until it came to an abrupt end against the Carolina Hurricanes during the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Saturday night’s 4-3 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators in Boston’s first divisional game of the season should still register in their collective minds months later. When the Spoked B team is jostling for playoff position and drawing upon the confidence-building moments that make up a successful season, their amazing two-game comeback with less than 90 seconds remaining will be the benchmark by which all others are measured. The victory will also be used as reassuring proof that good things do, in fact, happen to a hockey team when they simply, obstinately refuse to give quarter.
Twice the B’s pulled goaltender Tim Thomas – who was brilliant in making 27 saves during a typically frenetic victorious effort – in the final 1:28 of the game and the valiant Bruins twice scored goals to erase a 3-1 deficit and force an overtime session.
It seems that the Spoked B skating club has finally found some of the puck mojo and groovy hockey vibes that smiled kindly on them nearly all of last season, and the results have been impressive without key movers and shakers like Milan Lucic and Marc Savard.
In fact, one could argue that the injuries and difficulty is exactly what snapped the Bruins out of their extended autumnal hibernation and pushed them into their current fight or flight state of mind. That development of adversity has allowed the Bruins to push two straight games into overtime against solid playoff-level Eastern Conference teams, take five of a possible six points in their last three games and begin to reveal some of the players that have opted to step up in the team’s time of dire need.
Mark Recchi performed the hockey ecquivalent of CPR back into a flagging bench when he simply did what he’s done hundreds of time throughout the 1500 games that make up his NHL career. Recchi stepped into the danger area in front of the Sens net, and tipped a Derek Morris shot with less than 90 seconds to go in the third period to make it a one-goal game. It was pure “Wrecking Ball” type stuff as he jostled with Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov for prime position right in front of the painted area and simply flicked his wrist – with stick in hand – to reposition a Morris blast from well beyond the faceoff circles.
Morris also stepped up and again set up the game-tying goal with only 22 seconds left when he again threw a puck toward the net from his left point position. This time Morris read the seams and openings within the Senators defense perfectly and found David Krejci perched at the backdoor of the Ottawa cage. Krejci simply poked a pop-fly shot over Sens goaltender Brian Elliot as he attempted to smother the shot, and scored his first goal in 10 games with the Bruins. It was the perfect moment for Krejci to get in touch with his scoring abilities.
After standing tall with 27 saves between the Boston pipes, Thomas was perhaps the biggest player that stepped up his hockey game and made a series of show-stopping saves through the first 58 minutes of the game. Thomas’ heroics and acrobatics allowed the B’s to loiter within two goals of the Sens, and made the third period heart-stopper a possibility. No save was better than Thomas’ seemingly prototypical leaping, flopping headfirst dive at a seemingly certain Daniel Alfredsson goal at the end of the second period.
The Swedish forward got behind the B’s last layer of defense on a shorthanded attempt – the second straight game that the Boston power play unit has allowed a dangerous offensive sniper to waltz in on an odd-man rush – but Thomas literally took the challenge head on and threw himself head-first at the high-scoring forward shooting at the far post. The puck glanced off Thomas’ body, darted in the other direction and disaster was averted. The B’s reigning Vezina Trophy, perhaps more than anybody, is the player that has no choice but to elevate his game if the Bruins hope to stay afloat without 2/3 of their top line healthy until December.
Thomas did it on Saturday night with more than a little help from Morris, Recchi and Krejci among others – and is going to need plenty more assistance along the way until the B’s cavalry comes through. With things seemingly beginning to come together for the Black and Gold, here are three things we learned in Saturday night’s compelling comeback triumph over the Ottawa Senators.
ZDENO CHARA IS BEGINNING TO MAKE HIS PRESENCE FELT
The reigning Norris Trophy winner has been off to something off a slow start considering the ridiculously high level of play set for himself, but the 6-foot-9 defenseman is another key factor in “Operation Stay Afloat in the Eastern Conference.” Chara didn’t step into Saturday night’s scoresheet and has experienced difficulty getting his wind-up boomer through the pile of shot-blocking bodies in the early going, but he was the presence that Boston needed when it mattered.
Chara played a season-high 28:04 of ice time, finished at a +2, fired three shots on net and finished with three registered hits while forming with a rock-solid Morris to form the defenseman tandem that Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli envisioned when they inked Morris to a $3.3 million contract. Chara has five assists and sits at a +3 for the season, and appears to be turning the corner when it comes back to regaining his form.
THE OLD DOG STILL HAS A FEW MORE TRICKS
Recchi is the oldest player in the NHL this season at 41 years old, but he’s far from a hockey relic and proved it on Tuesday night. Recchi played in his 1,500th NHL game on Saturday night and has enjoyed a career that spans seven teams and a pair of Stanley Cup winning squads atop his crowded pro hockey resume.
The winger actually leads an incredible list of active games played leaders as he stands in front of Rod Brind’Amour (1413 games played), Mike Modano (1401 games played) and Nicklas Lidstrom (1338 games played) in terms of NHL seniority, and there’s no replacement for places Recchi has been and the things that Recchi has seen.
Recchi sits first in active career points, assists and games played while continuing to ply his trade for the Spoked B, and he’s second in active goals scored after potting his 547th career goal at the 1:28 mark of the third period. The Bruins defenseman have experienced a difficult time getting shots through traffic in the early going, which has nullified some of Recchi’s ability to tip and redirect pucks from the “courage areas” around the enemy cage.
But that all changed in the final seconds of Saturday night’s game when Morris found a little daylight, and gave Recchi the kind of juicy, lead point shot he’s been looking for all season. That goal stemmed the tide of momentum rising against the B’s and reversed it Boston’s way while making a comeback possible for the never say die Bruins.
With so many older, veteran players like P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward, Shane Hnidy and Chuck Kobasew now picking up hockey paychecks at new addresses this season, Recchi becomes an important force of leadership and experience for a largely young Boston hockey club. Veterans step up when things look bleakest and times are the most trying, and Recchi is most definitely stepping forward at this early juncture of the season.
SOBOTKA IS BACK TO HIS GRITTY, CONFIDENT SELF
After a strong preseason and a demotion to Providence to start the year, it took Vladimir Sobotka a bit of time to regain his bearings in Boston – but it appears the acclimation process is close to over for the talented young Czech Republic native.
Sobotka set up Boston’s first goal when he teamed with Daniel Paille to win puck battles and keep possession in the offensive zone. Sobotka followed that bit of gritty tenacity with a nifty little drop pass to Blake Wheeler at the left faceoff dot, and Wheeler ripped a quick-release shot past Elliot for a goal that gave Boston a 1-1 tie in the second period. Sobotka was hustling all over the ice and playing with pants on fire intensity while registering a game-high seven hits in only 12:23 of ice time Saturday night.
The combination of skill and board-rattling toughness is exactly what Sobotka brings to the table when things are going in the right direction for the 22-year-old, and that was the case Saturday night. Sobotka also appears to be forging some pretty good chemistry with Wheeler during their week skating together, and that bodes well for the foreseeable future with both players skating together.
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