Bruins

Thomas gets his 10th straight with 45-save gem

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Thomas gets his 10th straight with 45-save gem

PITTSBURGH Tim Thomas broke some of the cardinal rules of a winning streak, but it didnt matter.

Thomas changed back to his normal goalie mask and away from his Movember Mustache mask that hes set up a charity raffle to auction off to the highest bidder and the goalie mask hed been wearing for nearly his entire November winning streak.

But none of the superstitious stuff seems to matter when youre as good as Thomas and the Bruins are right now. Thomas was solid for most of the night and spectacular when he had to be while making 45 saves en route to a 3-1 victory over the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center.

Early on it was like they were more trying to be opportunistic and trying to make plays, said Thomas. Once we got ahead by a little bit they started throwing everything at the net rather than trying to make the perfect play.

Its been pretty nice to be a part of this team over the last month. There have been times when we fell out of exactly how we wanted to play, but at the same time individual guys have had big nights to bail us out.

Perfect play or puck-throwing didnt seem to matter. Thomas was stopping it either way.

For the Bs and Thomas the victory over the Pens was validation that theyre essentially in a battle with themselves to see how good they can be.

The Bruins made mistakes, of course, against a game Pittsburgh team, but they also overcame a pair of 5-on-3 Pitt power plays and a late surge by the Penguins spurred on by Matt Cookes third period goal. Thomas stopped eight shots when Pittsburgh was on the man advantage, and perhaps none was bigger than a point blank stop on Chris Kunitz without any hint of a rebound.

But Thomas never broke down, and became the first Bs goaltender to win 10 consecutive games since Andy Moog in 1993. Thomas did it all while moving to second in the NHL with a .940 save percentage in 18 games this season. Thomas trails only St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott still saving pucks at a .945 clip, but the Bs goaltender is the only one of the two puck-stoppers thats proven he can play at this level all season.

Our penalty kill guys did great and our goalie made the big save when we needed it, said Claude Julien. At the stage of the game where we killed off the 5-on-3 we could have easily let them back into it. We positioned ourselves well and didnt make it easy for them.

Thomas made key saves early on when things were still tight, and showed plenty of evidence he was in his goaltending zone while stopping a season-high 17 shots in the second period. He tracked a puck off Kunitzs stick that ricocheted off Zdeno Charas skate and seemed destined to be trouble and made a calm pad save.

Thomas gobbled up an Arron Asham one-timer from the slot on a play that developed late, and could have caught Thomas by surprise. He held the post on a bull rush by Joe Vitale late in the third period that spurred Gregory Campbell to drop the gloves protecting his franchise goaltender.

Thomas said the teams consistent excellence has allowed him to relax at points during the 15 games since the Bruins decided to dominate the NHL, and that means hes not taxing his 37-year-old body like he might have in the past.

Its been easier mentally because you have confidence your team is going to find a way to come through. Weve done it for so long that were really proving it, said Thomas. If the team isnt playing well sometime the goalie can make the mistake of putting the pressure on himself or trying to win it all by himself.

But the team playing the way it has over the last five weeks a goalie doesnt think that way. He just needs to be ready to help out if called upon.

That means Thomas should have plenty in the tank when it matters most for the Bruins, and thats an interesting proposition for a hockey team that looks better than the one he led to a Cup title through dominant play between the pipes.

Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

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Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

The Bruins seemed to discover a winning formula on the West Coast. Now the challenge is to keep it going.

It took them more than a month of play in the regular season, but they finally won two games in a row. Anton Khudobin and the B's played strong defense and finally built leads against the Kings and Sharks, and they avoided the kind of soft goal or defensive mistake that has been at the heart of so many of their losses.

Clearly that kind of tight, defensive game is how they're going have to play until they get their full lineup back, and they need plenty of wins. They're currently stuck in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.

"It's always nice to get a couple of wins, especially against tough teams," said David Krejci, who is scoreless but averaging almost 17 minutes of ice time  in the two games since returning from a back injury. "We knew we had some areas of our game that we had to improve, and we still do after the start to the game we had against San Jose. It's nice to get two in a row, and we're focusing on three in [New Jersey]. We're building toward something, and we're on the right track. It's a big game [against the Devils].

"Playing with a lead, playing good defensively and having a good, structured game with everybody buying in . . . when you have a young team and you're playing strong clubs like LA and San Jose, it really says a lot about what we're trying to do here when you can get the job done."

The good news is the Bruins are going to make it through the Thanksgiving marker within shouting distance of a playoff spot, but they're still just scratching the surface of what they need to do to stay relevant in the East. They're hoping that finally reeling off a couple of consecutive wins can start a run of good hockey at a time when they desperately need it.

"I think we've played as a five-man unit" said Kevan Miller. "Forwards are getting back to help the 'D', and defensemen are stepping up to help the forwards. When you play like that and everybody is on the same page, it makes it that much easier. I think everybody, whether you're coming from Providence or you're up here, has played the same systems, but it can be a little bit of a struggle to get everybody on the same page.

"We've done a pretty good job of that, but doing it for 60 minutes has been a bit of an issue. We're trying to work on that."

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Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

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Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

BRIGHTON, Mass – It had to be a bitter pill for Matt Grzelcyk to be sent back down to the AHL after playing solidly for the Bruins earlier this season. 

The 23-year-old Charlestown native was excellent playing in place of Torey Krug in Boston’s opening night win over the Nashville Predators, but his stay didn’t last very long. The former Boston University standout was back in the minor leagues shortly afterward once Krug returned from his fractured jaw a little earlier than expected. Now Krug is again banged up again with an upper body injury, and Grzelcyk has been called up to fill in for Krug during Wednesday night’s pre-Thanksgiving road game in New Jersey against the Devils.

Once again it will be about a focus on puck-moving and power play for Grzelcyk, who is the closest thing that the Bruins have to the smaller, skilled Krug in their minor-league system. 

“I was happy with how things went before I got sent to Providence, so I’m just going to try to do the things that I was doing well before I got sent down. Mentally knowing that I can play at the NHL level [is huge], and just going through the experience was positive,” said Grzelcyk. “Mentally my first year I think I was a little too nervous and tentatively with my play, and that’s not me at all when I’m at my best. I’m confident with the puck, and confident with my speed and ability. It was just about going out and doing it on the ice.”

Grzelcyk was okay down in Providence with four assists and a plus-4 rating in 14 games, but he’s been patiently waiting for another NHL call since logging 12:11 of solid puck-moving ice time in his lone appearance for Boston this season. Now he’ll get it in a likely pairing with Kevan Miller against the New Jersey Devils

“He’s a puck-mover. He’s quick. He can get up the ice and support the rush, and he’s a good distributor,” said Cassidy of Grzelcyk. “There are a lot of natural similarities to Torey [Krug] because of their physical makeup, but they are similar [players] with Torey at this level being a bit more significant offensive player. Whether it’s in [Grzelcyk] or not time will tell, but we believe it is and we just need to get it out of him.”

Grzelcyk will get a chance to show that offensive wrinkle and more when he suits up against the New Jersey Devils for his second game of the season after paying his dues with the P-Bruins overt the last month. 

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