The Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins are just 5-7 and totally Cup hungover and the sky is falling.
Or they just came off a 7-0 demolition of "second-place" Toronto (it's just the Leafs, but still...), they're outshooting opponents 32.9 to 29.0, their PK's doing alright and only their PP has failed them. They're in the top third of the league in 5-on-5 GF/GA (of course so is Edmonton, Toronto, Minnesota ... are all those teams as good as they appear right now?).
Ahhh...but you know what's funny? Just like the Islanders five-goal binge on the Caps brought them back over 2.0 goals per game, those Bruins numbers looked quite different before they gorged on six even-strength goals on the Leafs. Point is it's early, fans and media -- and GMs, apparently -- are prone to panic and elation, and early stats are prone to deceive, but the good teams are still usually good teams. The Bruins are one of those teams.
What about Tim Thomas? His historic season was a huge key to a good Bruins team appearing great last spring -- so how's he doing now? Not too shabby: 2.00 GAA and .931 in nine starts. Tuukka Rask takes an 0-3 record with a 2.71 and .906.
Again, goalie stats are tricky even when you have a bigger sample than just 10 games (or three, for Rask), but that's a snapshot at what's happened to the B's so far. The shutout of Toronto was said to be a fairly easy night for Thomas.
The Bruins went from a scary 3-7 to a manageable 5-7 in two quick divisional wins. With a follow-up to Saturday's come-from-behind win over the Capitals, the Islanders could go from an annoying 3-5-2 to a more soothing 5-5-2.
But that would require first showing up on the road, something they didn't do on their Florida trip but corrected in their shootout loss in Pittsburgh.
The New Lines
It sounds like Jack Capuano will stick with the new lines for another game. If I had to bet, he'll stick with them "while they're working" and then make small changes that nudge them closer to the versions that began the season.
I've always thought people make a bigger deal out of line combos than they merit, but they are fun to talk about and debate in pub debate. Here's P.A. Parenteau on them:
"I think all the guys really enjoyed their new lines," Parenteau said. "We had a little bit of a jam, we had a jump in our skating and who knows how long the lines are going to stay like this, but now we know that we have other lines that can work out. So we can go back to the old lines, but it’s all about confidence."
To me all that "confidence" and "jump" and other intangible stuff that cold observers scoff at but which players speak of constantly is part of the people-management side of this business. Managing 23 players -- not to mention three goalies at once -- requires more case-by-case intuition than what is prescribed in your MBA course on motivating a firm of 500 employees.
Capuano gave them a new look, and for some players it's a new opportunity while for others it's a wake-up call. They probably won't be the new seasonlong reality, but they might teach us a new thing or two about individual players.
Versus Trolls You with He Who Shall Not Be Named
In the U.S., this game is on Versus. Unless plans have changed, Mike Milbury is in the booth tonight (rather than just jawing about something or other in the studio), for a game between the franchise for which he once played and coached and now broadcasts, and the franchise he methodically plundered. I received a PR pitch about this broadcast last week; I pass the info on only as a public service.
Newsday's Arthur Staple talks to P.A. Parenteau, chirper at large: "I always feel like, even though I know people talk, that I help Johnny and Mouls as much as they help me," Parenteau said. "And the other night, I played with another great center in Fransie. I just let people think what they want." That's good stuff right there.
Goalies: Yesterday Staple figured Al Montoya would finally get another start tonight, but that was just his gut and not word from Cappy's hair. (Lots of other good notes in that link.) UPDATE: So naturally, Evgeni Nabokov gets the start with Montoya backing up. Rask will be in for the Bruins.
The Post talks of the festive post-game locker room after ending the six-game winless streak. Ah, slump-busting.
The St. Louis Blues and their ex-Stars GM have fired a gracious David Payne and hired ex-Stars coach Ken Hitchcock through 2012-13. Yep, that'll solve it. Maybe next time they'll fire the players. The Blues were giving up 26.2 shots per game so they had to bring in a defense-first co---...wait, what now? The move required permission of the Blue Jackets, who were probably thrilled to be relieved of their $1.3 million commitment left on his contract. The Blues' special teams were bottom of the league, and their assistants (including ex-Isle guide Brad Shaw) have been in place under three head coaches now.
Brooks's Sunday column calling for a revision to the over-the-glass rule that hosed the Islanders last week includes a funny note about Kyle Turris: Supposedly willing to sign IF the Coyotes let him broker a trade within 48 hours of it. Sure, kid.
Just for fun: Hilarious Whalers logo "turn" to celebrate a Happy Movember.
Regulars, leave your FIG picks for tonight's game in this thread.