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Free LCS 1997-98
Reader Hockey Pool
head coach: Pat Burns
roster: C - Anson Carter, Dimitri Khristich, Joe Thornton, Ted Donato, Tim Taylor. LW - Ken Baumgartner, Rob Dimaio, Sergei Samsonov, Jason Allison, Mike Sullivan. RW - Steve Heinze, Landon Wilson, Per Johan Axelsson, Jean Yves Roy. D - Ray Bourque, Don Sweeney, Dave Ellett, Kyle McLaren, Dean Chynoweth, Mattias Timander, Dean Malkoc, Hal Gill, Darren Van Impe. G - Byron Dafoe, Rob Tallas.
transactions: Cameron Mann, c, sent to Providence (AHL).
Eastern Conference - Northeast Division Team GP W L T PTS GF GA Montreal 46 24 16 6 54 136 109 Pittsburgh 45 23 14 8 54 125 104 Boston 44 20 16 8 48 111 106 Ottawa 46 19 20 7 45 111 111 Carolina 46 17 23 6 40 116 129 Buffalo 43 15 20 8 38 101 114
12/17 at Tampa Bay L 2-0 12/18 at Philadelphia T 2-2 12/20 Islanders L 4-3 12/22 Detroit L 4-2 12/27 at Tampa Bay W 3-1 12/28 at Rangers L 4-3 12/31 at Toronto T 2-2 01/01 Ottawa T 0-0 01/03 San Jose W 3-0 01/07 Montreal W 2-1 01/08 Phoenix W 5-2 01/12 New Jersey T 1-1
by Matt Brown, Boston Correspondent
After a string of five victories in a row, the once lowly Bruins lost to the currently lowly Lightning, and proceeded to go without a win for the next four games. Then they visited the Lightning again two days after Christmas and received a belated present in the form of a 3-1 win. The Bruins, who looked like they were slipping back to the form of last season for a while, pulled out of their funk and had only one loss in the next eight games. Monday night's tie with New Jersey continued the Bruins' six-game unbeaten streak.
So over the last 12 games, the Bruins ended up 4-4-4, which is like treading water. However, that isn't half bad after starting out 0-2-2, and looking for the world like they were going down for the count. Heck, the Islanders haven't beaten anybody since they scored late to beat the Bruins on December 20.
Monday's tie with New Jersey leaves the Bruins with a .500 record at home (8-8-4) and 12-8-4 on the road - no other NHL team has a .500 or less home record and a winning record overall. Even more amazing, if you think back to last year at least, is that the Bruins have actually outscored their opposition by a 112 to 107 margin. That may look like a measly five goals to most, but to Bruins fans who endured last year's debacle on skates, with a 66-goal (234 -300) deficit, this is lofty stuff.
The Bruins are now 20-16-9 after 45 games. Last year they were 26-47-9 for the season, with 61 points in 82 games. They have 49 points in 45 games, good for 6th place in the Eastern Conference. That projects to 87 points in an 82 game season, which last year would have qualified them for the playoffs in 5th place.
While the word around the league is that the Bruins are another boring trap team, the word around Boston is that the Bruins players become wholesale converts to the Pat Burns theory of hockey. The Bruins have improved their defensive play by better than a goal a game.
Pat Burns was particularly upset by remarks from Jeremy Roenick of the Coyotes that pegged the Bruins as a clutch and grab team. Burns countered by pointing out that the Bruins are the least penalized team in the NHL at this point, and Roenick's own team was far more guilty of taking liberties with the rules than the Bruins - The Coyotes had two power plays, the Bruins four.
But it goes farther than that. There has been a lot of talk about about scoring being down, and changing the rules, making the goals bigger, and so on. Most of these remarks are very shortsighted and forgetful of hockey history/ Most of the people who say that a 1-1 game is boring are just not looking at the right things.
Hockey, like most pro sports, has cycles where one aspect of the game is in ascendancy, teams copy other successful teams, and then somebody comes along, breaks the mold, and becomes the new team to copy. Some of the best examples come from the NFL, where for years it was unthinkable to play a 4-3 defense, and everyone used a 3-4, because of pass-dominated winning teams. Then the offenses start to run the ball more again, and gradually teams change defense back to the 4-3. Hockey is no different. If you look back to pre-expansion hockey, it was a defensive game. That changed in a hurry with expansion and the coming of Bobby Orr. When Orr left, the defenses tightened up, Tony Esposito recorded 15 shutouts in a season, and the Islanders started their Stanley Cup streak. Along comes Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers, and scoring is back in vogue. Now we are back on the defensive side of the cycle, and teams with power like Detroit and Colorado, who are at their core tough defensive teams with quality depth, rule the roost. It will cycle again toward the offense without the help of funky rules changes.
Now, if you think back to the teams Pat Burns coached in Montreal, they had stifling defenses. Now in Boston, a Pat Burns team is playing very tight defense, is backchecking correctly and persistently (something Steve Kasper, with the best of knowledge and intention, was not ever able to get the team to do), and is winning games. Do you see a pattern?
When Pat Burns was rumored to be taking the job of Bruins coach, it was easy for Bruins fans to remember hating him as Habs coach. Now that he has been here for a little over half a season, it is easy to see why Montreal fans loved him.
Pat Burns has not changed his coaching philosophy more than one little bit since leaving Montreal and Toronto. He makes his expectations clear to both players and goalkeepers - he told Byron Dafoe to stop the first shot, and then it is up to the rest of the guys to clear out from there on. The Bruins, a very young team, forget this simple premise every so often, and just about every time, it bites them. The players are realizing this, and are getting bitten less often as the season goes by. Remember, the Devils won a Stanley Cup by buying into a similar system from Jacques Lemaire, another former Canadiens product, and then missed the playoffs the following year when the players, with swelled heads, rebelled against Jacques.
How boring is it to keep writing week after week about how Jason Allison is prospering under Pat Burns and looking like he might just prove his critics wrong by performing in line with his talents? However, Jason passed another milestone toward reaching his potential by scoring his first NHL hat trick against the Phoenix Coyotes in a 5-2 Bruins win. Allison was superb against the Coyotes. His strong (not fast) skating around the net left the Phoenix defense eating his ice chips, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin at his mercy. All three goals were scored within ten feet of the crease, and his performance brought down the house (not to mention the hats) in the Fleetcenter.
Equally interesting, but far less reported, is the performance of Dimitri Khristich. This guy came from Los Angeles with a bad rap as a teammate and intimations of laziness. Not under Pat Burns. Dimitri has 16 goals, tying him for the team goal-scoring lead with Allison. He has been instrumental in bringing rookie Sergei Samsonov along as an NHLer, to the point where Burns had made Allison-Khristich-Samsonov the first line. Khristich has killed penalties, goes hard into the corners, passes well and generously, and against the Canadiens, was labelled a one-man wrecking crew by the Bruins announcers, Dale Arnold and Gord Kluzak. Khristich put two Canadiens, Valeri Bure (cuff to the chops) and Jocelyn Thibault (slap shot off the collarbone) out of the game. That, and a 2-1 overtime win over the Habs, was enough to make Bruins fans think that Harry Sinden had won both ends of the trade that sent Sandy Moger and Jozef Stumpel to the LA Kings for Byron Dafoe and Dimitri.
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