Young B's guns getting it done
Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin & Co. lead the way as Boston gets back to .500
All of these players made an impact in the cross-conference matchup Thursday at the TD Garden. But it was the Bruins who extended their season-high winning streak to four games with a 6-3 victory over the Oilers. Boston is back to .500 for only the second time this season and first since the second game of the season on Oct. 8.
"It's nice to get back to .500 here," Marchand said. "We're still a little ways from where we want to be and where we should be, but we're definitely taking steps forward towards it."
Marchand scored a pair of goals, while Seguin added a goal and an assist for the Bruins. Caron netted his first goal of the season off Hamill's assist.
For Edmonton, Nugent-Hopkins scored his seventh of the season, while Hall chipped in his seventh assist.
These are some of the best young players currently in the NHL. It's no secret, either, as the "Taylor vs. Tyler" debate has raged since the forever-linked pair of talented forwards were chosen first (Hall by the Oilers) and second (Seguin by the Bruins) in the 2010 NHL entry draft. Both have lived up to expectations, too. Seguin has eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 14 games this season, while Hall has three goals and seven assists for 10 points in 14 games.
Nugent-Hopkins, 18, was the top pick in the 2011 draft by the Oilers, and he's already proving to be the real deal, too. He has seven goals and six assists for 13 points in 14 games.
Caron, 21, is starting to come into his own and is clearly playing with more confidence. Hamill, 23, who was recalled on an emergency basis from Providence of the AHL on Wednesday, played like he's been with the Bruins all season even though it was only his fifth career game in the league.
The youth movement in the NHL was definitely on display Thursday night at the Garden.
"It's really big," Marchand said of the young blood in the league. "It gives a lot of young guys who are dreaming about being in the league a lot of motivation. Nowadays it's becoming a young league and guys are getting opportunities. It shows that speed is such a big part of the game, and teams are going after the guys who have speed and are skillful."
There's plenty of that around the league, and it's good for hockey. It's great for organizations such as the Bruins and Oilers. And it's even better for the fans. These players could be the next generation of superstars.
Marchand, at 23, is actually the veteran of the group, with 111 games played in the NHL. Even though he scored a pair of goals Thursday night, he's been struggling in that department this season, with only four total.
When Marchand had his exit meeting with Bruins coach Claude Julien following the 2009-10 season, Julien predicted Marchand would score 20 goals in 2010-11. Marchand accomplished that and was an integral part of the team's Stanley Cup championship.
Because Marchand had been on a scoring drought so far this season, Julien actually made a comment to him recently, telling the forward that it seems like it's going to be a tough year to reach the 20-goal plateau again. Well, it was exactly what Marchand needed to hear.
"It was a kick in the butt," he said. "It was nice to get a couple but it's still early in the year."
Marchand went a span of nine games without a goal, and the fact he was able to pump in a couple could jump-start him a bit. At least that's what he's hoping for.
"It felt a lot longer than that," he said. "It was getting frustrating. You want to produce. It was easier because we were winning a bit, but you want to help the team and you feel like you're letting them down when you're not doing your job out there. It was nice to get a couple."
The Bruins' organizational depth also was on display Thursday night, and that aspect has been a key component for Boston.
"Hams did a great job coming in," Marchand said. "He played a great game and made a lot of great plays. He had a great pass on Jordan's goal, and Jordan's played great the last few games and he's really stepped it up."
Hamill and Caron played together on the same line all of last season in Providence, and the two talked about their chemistry prior to Thursday's game.
"We fed off each other in Providence last year," Hamill said. "From day one that we were put together, we were good together. We do know each other quite well, and it definitely benefits me and hopefully it does for him, too."
After being a healthy scratch for three consecutive games, Caron has played the past five in a row and is coming into his own. His first goal of the season wasn't a pretty one, but he was in the right place at the right time to knock in a tremendous pass from Hamill to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead at 8:55 of the first period.
"I've wanted to play my A-game, and the last five games I think I've played pretty good," Caron said. "I've just got to keep it going. The more you play the better you feel out there. You can get your legs going and get that momentum going, and it does help a lot."
The young talent on both sides put on a good show Thursday. Even the Bruins were impressed with the way Hall and Nugent-Hopkins played.
"They're young, very fast and skilled," Marchand said. "They're going to be good players for a long time."
In order for young players to be successful in this league, their mindsets have to be rock-solid. There are a lot of players in the AHL who could compete in the NHL, but the opportunities are not always available for one reason or another. The Bruins and Oilers are two organizations that will give their young players those opportunities, and then it's up to those players to make the most of it.
Marchand and Seguin are prime examples, and now Caron and Hamill are finding themselves in a similar situation. The same can be said for Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.
"It's something you work for your whole life, and everyone who plays hockey wants to play in the NHL," Marchand said. "When you get that opportunity as a young guy, you want to do anything you can to stick with the team and show you can play in the league. It really pushes the guys who are on the team to continue to get better because they know that there are a lot of young guys coming in after them who want to take their spots. It's good for the game."
Thanks in part to a four-game winning streak, and the improved play by their young players, the Bruins are back to .500.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.