Nathan Horton has the potential to be a major offensive weapon for Boston. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Almost anonymously, the Boston Bruins have put together a strong surge that has them nipping at the heels of the Eastern Conference leaders.
After a start that relied solely on the amazing performances of Tim Thomas to bail them out, the Bruins have begun to gel. News that Marc Savard has been sent home
as a precautionary measure after a hit by Matt Hunwick has put a damper on their success, but it has not been the Bruins' top line of Savard, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton that has led the club.
First and foremost, Thomas has to win the Vezina Trophy again this year in what must be the most improbable of success stories. Penciled in as the backup to youngster Tuukka Rask, Thomas didn't simply slide back into the No. 1 role. He walked into the front door of the bank and stole the money.
Talk about brazen numbers. Otherworldly is what they are: Thomas's save percentage hovers at .945 and his goals-against average is at 1.81 going into the all-star break. This far into the season, those are absolutely sick numbers. His concentration and composure are fascinating to watch and, in what may be his most significant accomplishment, he seems to have made Rask comfortable with being the No. 2 for now.
After Zdeno Chara, you would have to be a Boston fan to know many guys on defence, although I will submit this: Dennis Seidenberg may be one of the most underrated defenders in the NHL. He is strong and dependable, and has begun to chip in offensively.
Beyond that is a mishmash of players who buy into a Claude Julien scheme that is conservative and easy to play. Steve Kampher has brought speed. Adam McQuaid has brought toughness. Johnny Boychuk as well. And Andrew Ference is a perfect fit for the system. Mark Stuart seems the odd man out for now, but not because of his play - it's just a numbers game. Call the blue-liners reliable and committed.Two-way excellence
Up front, Patrice Bergeron is on a tear. Selke Trophy consideration? Absolutely. Lady Byng? Sure. This is the guy that was emerging before eating glass courtesy of Randy Jones
a couple of years ago. Along with Mike Richards, Patrice is one of the top two most reliable players in the league. Lucic has re-discovered his scoring touch after a drought. David Krejci has the same two-way approach as Bergeron and can play anywhere and anytime.
Blake Wheeler has found some energy. Michael Ryder is finding ways to contribute. And the old man in town, Mark Recchi, waddles his way to impact the outcome of more games than a 43-year-old guy should. OK, he's only 42, but his birthday is around the corner. Brad Marchand has been a jolt of enthusiasm with speed and a better-than-expected scoring touch. Shawn Thornton and Greg Campbell are two of the most reliable players in the league: what you see is what you get, and you get it every night.
Which brings us to Horton and Savard. The hope is that this is only a hiccup on the road to a full and productive recovery for Savard. While not as productive as he might like to have been recently, his game has been coming around. As for Horton, he has too often fallen into the fog that he encountered in Florida. Wandering aimlessly without getting involved will bring the wrath of Bruins fans eventually. But, for now, there is hope that all that stands in the way of a deep playoff run for the club is the emergence of these two guys.
They should be the best offensive weapons on the team. They will be needed in a big way in April.
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