Knee-Jerk Reactions to Early Performances of Bruins' Top Stars
After two games, the Boston Bruins are undefeated and looking good. As a result, October optimism is all the rage in Beantown.
However, it is important to remember that 80 games remain, and almost nothing is known about how this team will look months from now.
Knee-jerk reactions to early efforts are inevitable, so it's time to evaluate some bold assumptions drawn from the B's first pair of victories.
1. The Bruins Power Play Is Great Thanks to Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara
The Knee-Jerk Reaction:
With Torey Krug firing from the point and Zdeno Chara planted in front of the net, the Boston Bruins power play is and will continue to be a dominant force.
The new-look power play is off to a hot start, and it has to be better than last season's. However, it has a long way to go to become elite.
To open the season, Coach Claude Julien has gone with an interesting power-play scheme in which 6'9" Zdeno Chara plays as a forward. The giant D-man has lined up as a goalie screen before but with limited success.
The difference so far this season has been Krug's skill in the quarterback position. The rookie's wicked shot and nifty playmaking ability might finally be tapping Chara's potential as a power forward.
Krug and Chara combined for two goals with the man advantage against the Detroit Red Wings on October 5.
The first came on a Krug slapper, while Chara effectively blinded Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Two periods later, Krug returned the favor by feeding his captain in front for a skillful backhand.
It's important to remember that while Krug and Chara will feature prominently on special teams this season, other players will need to score for the unit to succeed.
David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla will have plenty of chances to shine, and the success of Boston's 5-on-4 unit will depend heavily on their production. Second-year defender Dougie Hamilton should also see plenty of looks on the point.
If the whole gang gets in on the act, this unit could finally be a strength for the Bruins. Boston would benefit greatly from a lethal power play, but a larger sample size is necessary before we call this group great.
2. Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson Are Busts
The Knee-Jerk Reaction:
Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson have failed to score a single point so far this season. They are overrated and incapable of replacing Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin.
There is absolutely no reason to panic after two games. It is true that Iginla and Eriksson have yet to score, but they have looked quite good.
The Bruins' new wingers have combined for 10 shots on goal, and Eriksson is tied for the team lead with six. Both players have created a quite a few nice chances, and Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard nearly conceded to both players on October 5.
The production will come as both stars adjust to their new lines. The chemistry is already looking fairly good, and it only stands to get better.
Iginla and Eriksson have not been ghosts on the ice as Horton and Seguin often were, at least in the regular season. They have been making active contributions, and their play away from the opposing goal has been strong.
Iginla, in particular, made a big contribution to Boston's opening night win by dropping the gloves with Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas. Iginla's fight helped kick start the team after a sluggish start.
There is nothing wrong with these perennially productive players, and they are passing the eye-test so far. They've made clever passes, put themselves in position to shoot the puck and have helped to energize their linemates.
Keep an eye out for these guys against the Colorado Avalanche on October 10. At least one of them is likely to light the lamp.
3. Tuukka Rask Is the Best Goalie in the NHL
The Knee-Jerk Reaction:
Allowing just two goals in his first two games, Tuukka Rask has been stupendous. The 26-year-old has developed into the NHL's best goalie.
There might be some truth to the claim that Rask is the best goalie in the world.
However, the first two games of the season certainly haven't provided enough evidence to earn him that title just yet.
The Finnish netminder has stopped 57 of 59 shots from two very good offensive teams, and the goals he allowed to Tampa's Valtteri Filppula and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg were excusable.
Filppula's goal came on an awful defensive breakdown that permitted an easy one-timer, and Rask had no hope of seeing Zetterberg's rebound attempt through an unfortunate Johnny Boychuk screen. It's hard to view Rask's early efforts and give him anything less than exemplary marks.
The Bruins netminder proved throughout last season that he is an elite puck-stopper, and there was no reason to expect anything different this time around.
If he stays hot throughout the year or leads the Bruins to the Stanley Cup, it will undoubtedly be time to discuss whether or not he is the best goalie in the world.
For now, that title will belong to the more experienced Henrik Lundqvist, but Rask is gunning for greatness. He is the real deal. It's just too early to crown him.
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