With a devastating end to the season in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals only three months behind them, the Bruins came out strong in the 2013-2014 season. The B’s won nine of their first 11 games and only suffered five losses in the entire month of November.
Despite some struggles and untimely injuries midway through the season, the Bruins now sit comfortably atop the Atlantic Division with a 37-16-4 record, riding a 7-2 slaughtering of the Ottawa Senators into the Olympic Break.
There have been many defining moments in the Bruins season thus far, including the emergence of backup goalie Chad Johnson and the integration of Jarome Iginla into the lineup. However, the top three moments that have defined the 2013-2014 Boston Bruins so far going into this two-week break go to Brad Marchand, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dennis Seidenberg.
1. Marchand ends criticism with 6-game point streak
Marchand had been receiving a lot of criticism from the harsh Boston sports media and Bruins fans everywhere with his slow start to the season after a disappointing zero-point series in the Stanley Cup Finals. He posted only 4 points and 1 goal in the first month of the season and those numbers only improved marginally for the months of November and December.
The media began questioning Marchand’s position on the team and even going back to question the July trade of Tyler Seguin to the Stars. However, the winger finally put his critics to rest in the month of January, posting 14 points from eight goals, including a six-game point streak where he netted six of those goals. This surge came when the Bruins needed him most during a tough Western Conference road trip where the Bruins managed to come away with five points against the Stars, Blackhawks and Kings.
The Bruins second line, consisting of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Riley Smith, came alive during this stretch with each going on a six-game point and putting up 31 points total between the three. This finally silenced criticism of Marchand and the Seguin deal which brought Smith to Boston as the Bruins second line began to repeatedly capitalize on great opportunities in the offensive zone.
2. Bruins come from behind to beat Penguins, Shawn Thornton receives 15-game suspension
The game between the Bruins and the conference rivals Pittsburgh Penguins on December 7 was a big moment for the Bruins this season. Leading up to this game, the Penguins were riding a five-game win streak with their last loss coming from the Bruins in a 4-3 overtime victory less than two weeks prior. The Penguins, however, had taken the first game of the series against the Bruins in a close 3-2 contest in the first game since the B’s swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals. Tensions were high.
Both teams exchanged cheap shots with Brooks Orpik taking Eriksson out of the game with a concussion, James Neal kneeing Marchand in the head while he was already down on the ice, and Shawn Thornton retaliating by taking down Orpik causing him to leave the game in a stretcher.
The Thornton hit on Orpik after he was down led to a 15-game suspension at a time the Bruins were already down players due to injuries, including Eriksson and Johnny Boychuk. Thornton also had to sit for a ten minute penalty which led to the Penguins second power-play goal of the night to put them up 2-1, a lead they would hold for most of the game.
The dramatics continued, however, at TD Garden that night when David Krejci ripped a centering pass from Iginla past Marc-André Fleury to tie up the game with only 1:29 remaining in the third with Tuukka Rask pulled. The Bruins wanted more than a point out of this game though and got exactly that when Zdeno Chara put the Penguins away for good with just 13 seconds left in regulation to push the Bruins to a 3-2 victory, bringing them within one point of the Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins then propelled forward from that game, winning three of four games in a tough Canadian road trip against the Maple Leafs, Flames, Oilers and Canucks.
3. Seidenberg’s receives season-ending injury, leaving the Bruins desperate to fill defensive holes
Without a doubt the most defining moment of this season has been Seidenberg’s season-ending ACL/MCL injury that came on December 28 against the Ottawa Senators. Seidenberg was a solid presence at the blue line, averaging 22:50 minutes of ice time per game. His injury left the Bruins with only three veteran defenseman, including Adam McQuaid who had already missed nearly half of the season with various lower-body injuries.
The Bruins had no choice but to start focusing on the development of their young defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller. David Warsofsky was also called up from the Providence Bruins to help fill some holes on defense throughout the second half of the season.
Without Seidenberg, the Bruins showed signs of struggle losing four of their next six games including a rough West Coast road trip, but the B’s managed to turn things back around with a crucial 1-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks to finish out the trip on January 11. They have since won 10 of their last 13 leading up to the break.
While having Seidenberg out for the season was certainly not ideal, it ultimately helped the Bruins develop their young defensemen for when they really needed them with McQuaid going out again on January 19 with another lower-body injury. They were put to the test again when Chara had to leave for the Olympic Games early to carry the flag for Slovakia, leaving Boychuk as the sole veteran defensemen. His 299 career NHL games is more than all five of the remaining young defensemen’s NHL experience combined. The young, but now experienced, Bruins defense held on for the two Chara-less games, picking up three points and destroying the Senators 7-2 in the final game before the break.
The B’s have proved they are strong contenders for another solid Stanley Cup Playoff run, even with potentially crippling injuries. Peter Chiarelli will have some holes to fill on defense as the March 5 trading deadline comes around, but the Bruins can have some confidence going into the remainder of the season that their young defensive core can hold the blue line and continue to drive the Bruins through a winning season.