Beat the Bruins? Not in November
November, 30, 2011
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com
TORONTO -- That Movember Mustache on Tim Thomas might just have to hang around a bit longer.
How can the all-world netminder for the Boston Bruins shave it off after the club's historical month, an inquisitor from ESPN.com asked him Wednesday night after a 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs?
"That's something to think about," Thomas mused. "To be honest, I'll just try to trim mine and see how that goes."
Don't change or shave a thing would be my advice for the NHL's hottest team. Try 12-0-1 in November, the first time since January 1969 (10-0-4) that the B's have gone a whole month without a regulation loss and the first NHL team to do it since the San Jose Sharks in March 2008 (13-0-2).
"Once you get on a roll and start playing like you can with a lot of desperation, and start winning games -- you don't want to lose it," said captain Zdeno Chara, who tallied a goal and an assist Wednesday night.
"It's so hard to get it back, and we just don't want to lose it now."
Swagger? You bet it's back for the defending champions. Now the question is whether Bruins fans should be readying for another Cup party.
With 25 out of a possible 26 points this month, the B's continued to find different ways to win, all the while very much restoring any confidence that may have been lost by a 3-7-0 start to the season.
Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireTim Thomas made 34 saves against the Leafs as the Bruins closed November without a loss in regulation.
"The main thing right now is the confidence coming to the rink and seeing the smiles on all the guys' faces," said winger Milan Lucic, he of two goals against the Leafs. "It wasn't really fun the way we started. We're a competitive group and we wanted to change that. It didn't take one guy, it took everyone to turn this thing around. You definitely have to give every guy credit for turning the ship around."
Was it just a month ago that the B's were swept in a home-and-home by Montreal and sat dead last in the Eastern Conference? Now they're one point behind Pittsburgh for the conference lead. That dreadful opening month was about realizing how to compete when you're a defending champion.
"I think we had a real tough time of being the team to beat," Lucic said. "We kind of overlooked the fact we were going to get every team's best and things aren't just going to happen for us. We addressed that. Instead of waiting for things to happen, we've taken the bull by the horn and gone out there and made it happen. I think that's the biggest difference."
Right now, the Bruins can beat you in so many ways. David Krejci had been struggling, with only two assists in his previous eight games. Perhaps it was the rumor floated in his town that he was on the trading block that woke him up, but he exploded for three points (1-2) Wednesday night and easily played his most effective game in a long time, scoring his first goal since Nov. 7.
Other nights during this streak, it's been the second line centered by Patrice Bergeron that's made the difference. Some games, it's been the third-line pairing of Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly that's stepped up. And of course, Thomas has stood on his head when needed.
We traded text messages with Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock last Friday after his team handed Boston its only loss of this streak -- in a shootout -- and he pointed to the Bruins' depth up front, citing how a skilled player like Peverley can find himself on a third line. What it creates for the opposing team is a nightmare for matchups. Pick your poison.
The Maple Leafs have a few days to think about that. They play the Bruins again, this time in Boston, on Saturday night. They're now 0-3 on the season against the B's and have been outscored 19-5 by their divisional rivals.
"They seem to have our number," Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said. "I was pleased with the way we played. Unfortunately, they had five or six power plays to our one and a half."
The surprising Leafs had circled this game as a barometer to see how far they've come this season. This was easily their best effort of the three games against the Bruins with the Leafs pressing hard in the third period before Lucic made it 5-3 at 15:21 to seal it.
"If we keep playing like that, we'll beat that team," Wilson said.
Beat the Bruins? That hasn't happened since October.