It's been an interesting season to date for the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. Though the team is doing pretty well at this point in the campaign, standing at second in the Eastern Conference and first in the Northeastern Division, it was not always this way. Let's take a look at some of the better aspects, and some of the not-so-great ones too, from 2011-12 to date.
-Raising the banner
Even though the Bruins actually lost their home opener, 2-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Stanley Cup Champions banner-raising ceremony made the loss feel a little easier to bear. The kabuki-like 360-degree screen that enveloped the banner served as a great way to show highlights from the journey to the Cup and the big reveal of the banner itself was awe-inspiring. Each Bruin got a chance to skate around home ice with the Cup since they won on Vancouver's turf. Retired teammates Mark Recchi and Shane Hnidy returned for one last hurrah. (When Recchi was presented with the vintage game MVP jacket by its purchaser, Andrew Ference, he was so moved he could not even give a speech.) Members of the 1972 champion team helped members of the 2011 champion team raise the banner up to the rafters of TD Garden. For Bruins fans everywhere, who were able to see it on what was then known as Versus (now NBC Sports Network), it was a great experience.
-The rise of Seguin
In Tyler Seguin's rookie season, he played 74 regular-season games and posted a respectable 11-11-22 in points. For the first two rounds of the playoffs, practices basically served as his games. Then in the Tampa Bay Lightning series, with Patrice Bergeron sidelined by a concussion, Seguin came alive. Buoyed by this good performance, and Recchi's retirement having left a gap on the Bruins' second line, Seguin was slotted in alongside Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Since then, that entire line has been stellar, and this is not to discount the great contributions of Marchand or Bergeron, but Seguin has been especially surprising. He has 20 goals in 50 games, the most of any Bruin, and his +33 rating is the best in the entire NHL and has been for months. His first career hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 5 was scored in front of his family and against the team that traded away his draft selection. His speed can be eye-popping and when he and Marchand are working well together, they're nearly unstoppable. Better yet, since he's only 20 years old, he has so much potential left in him. (Now let's just make sure he knows to set his alarm clock properly.)
-The accomplishments of November
Coming off the doldrums of October-more on that later-the Bruins needed a reversal of fortune if they wanted to come out of the East's basement and perform up to the standards of the fans. In this case, November was just what the doctor ordered. Facing off against teams including the Maple Leafs (twice), Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets, the Bruins lost only once in November: a shootout against the Detroit Red Wings on a nationally-televised Black Friday game. Their 12-0-1 record was the best single-month record for the Bruins since January 1969. Better yet, six of those games were won with at least six Bruins goals scored, leading to lots of jokes about six-packs.
-8-0 against Florida before Christmas
The Bruins' last game before a well-deserved holiday break, Dec. 23 versus the surprisingly hot Florida Panthers, came with a touch of nervousness. In their previous meeting, the Panthers shut the Bruins out 2-0 on Garden ice. Maybe there was a little yuletide magic in the air that December night, though, because the Bruins built their fans a snowman: 8-0, with all the goals coming from the Black and Gold this time. The team performed admirably in front of backup goalie Tuukka Rask, six different Bruins scored, 14 different Bruins had at least a point and the ice was showered with festive headgear when Brad Marchand scored his first hat trick. The fans got in the spirit too, at some points chanting "Merry Christmas." What a gift!
At the 2012 All-Star Game in Ottawa, the Bruins were proudly represented by captain Zdeno Chara, goalie Tim Thomas, sophomore supreme Tyler Seguin and the Bruins' coaching staff. Chara was named captain of the blue team and had Maple Leafs representative Joffrey Lupul alongside, which caused a big stir among the Senators-loving crowd. Chara drafted both of his teammates, although he made Seguin sweat it out backstage before picking him in the 18th round. During the skills competition, Chara blasted a shot that registered at 108.8 miles per hour in the hardest shot segment. At this rate, considering he sets and breaks hardest shot records every year, we should probably expect him to surpass 110 in Columbus next year. Then, during the main event, Chara scored and Thomas earned his fourth consecutive All-Star Game win with a spectacular third period performance.
The Bruins came off their first Cup win since Richard Nixon was president and proceeded to have a less-than-stellar October. Beginning with the home opener loss and ending with dropping both parts of a home-and-home with the arch-rival Canadiens, the Bruins built a pretty poor 3-7-0 record and were at one point in the basement of the Eastern Conference. This left fans everywhere wondering if there was a Stanley Cup hangover and, if so, what the cure might be. (It turns out that November 2011 was the cure.) Since October, though, the Bruins have decided they don't like losing streaks and have not lost more than twice in a row since that home-and-home with the Habs.
-The Carolinian thorn in the Bruins' side
For the first time in the Carolina Hurricanes' entire existence, including its old days as the Hartford Whalers, they pulled out a total series sweep of the Bruins. This 0-4 record includes a rather embarrassing 0-3 shutout in January and an October game laden with penalties. These wins for the 'Canes came as they continue to linger among the bottom of the East, the most obvious example of a rather strange Bruins pattern where they sometimes lose against teams that are, at this point, nowhere near being in the playoff race.
Although the Bruins traded away defenseman Tomas Kaberle to the Habs after he didn't live up to the expectations that brought him to Boston, some of the other members of Boston's blueline corps have at times vexed and frustrated fans. On at least two different occasions-Feb. 5 at the Washington Capitals and Jan. 22 at the Flyers-Dennis Seidenberg has been right on the doorstep for a goal against, but both those times, he arguably helped deflect the puck in behind his own goalie instead of out the other way. Mistakes do happen, but that's still upsetting. However, Joe Corvo, the acquisition from Carolina, has probably been the most inconsistent defenseman. There are some nights where he seems to fit perfectly with the team and he contributes points, but many other nights where he's either invisible or doesn't contribute and may even hinder things. This has earned him fan ire and a Twitter call-out by Bruins beat reporter Joe Haggerty.
-Two hat tricks in two consecutive games
In a late January slump, the Bruins gained the ignominious distinction of allowing two different players to tally hat tricks against them in two consecutive games. Even though Boston won the first game, a 6-5 shootout in Philadelphia, the victory came with the sidebar of Scott Hartnell's natural hat trick. The team followed this by letting Washington's Mathieu Perreault put away three in a 5-3 loss in the nation's capital. These were the freshest memories in fans' minds as the Bruins went on the All-Star break. Thankfully, the All-Star festivities gave them some good things to think about, though.
-Savard is still out with no timetable of return
With the league's increased attention paid to concussions, and trying to stop hits that can cause them, comes the fact that Marc Savard is still out with the lingering effects of post-concussion syndrome. Although his name is engraved in the Stanley Cup after successful lobbying by team brass, and even with his name still listed as part of the Bruins' roster, the sad fact is that he may never play again. He did make an appearance in January to mark the opening of a TD Garden suite he has purchased, through the 2013-14 season, for use by children who have suffered head trauma. His Twitter is also a way to see how he is doing: he talks about coaching his son's team, spending quality time with his three kids, the way punishments are meted out in the Brendan Shanahan era and the difficulties he still faces with things like weather, headaches and memory lapses. No official retirement announcements have been made yet, but fans everywhere are hoping for the best for "Savvy."