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Savard’s return provides instant spark for Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers 12:30 p.m. EDT, May 1, 2010 Live on NBC

The Bruins are playing some of their best hockey of the season, a year in which they stumbled along under the pressure of high expectations, and now are getting an injection of talent and skill as Marc Savard is set to return today against the Philadelphia Flyers.

For a while there, it looked as if the Boston Bruins’ season may have ended along with Marc Savard’s, who last hit the ice with his team on March 7. With Savard out indefinitely with a brutal concussion after being hit by Matt Cooke, the Bruins looked like a team missing their heart and desire to compete.

When the Bruins had their chance at an overly-hyped ‘revenge game’ against Cooke and the Penguins, hockey fans were sorely disappointed at the lackluster effort shown by the team on home ice. Here was a chance for the Bruins to not only get some legal payback on Cooke and the Penguins, but to use the emotional motivation to spring board away from the bottom of the playoff standings. Instead, the Bruins looked disinterested and empty as they were dominated by the Penguins is embarrassing fashion.

Since that game, the Bruins have used the criticism as motivation to improve. They entered the playoffs winning six of their last ten games, and while it seemed they may fall out of the playoffs altogether were able to finish in the sixth seed. They used the momentum built in the final weeks of the season, along with some stellar goaltending, to stun the Buffalo Sabres with a six game series win in the opening round.

With today’s return of Savard, the Bruins are getting an instant upgrade on the power play and a playmaker that is certain to make the Bruins into an even more dangerous team they showed they could be against the Sabres. While the goaltending of Tuukka Rask was certainly a major factor in the team’s success in the first round, getting a player with Savard’s skill could take the Bruins to the level they were never able to achieve in last year’s postseason.

As GM Peter Chiarelli said this week, getting Savard back now is the equivalent of a trade deadline acquisition. The Bruins have been playing for two months without Savard, slowly growing together on the ice without their best playmaking forward. Now, with Savard’s return, the Bruins become a much more dangerous team. They get the heart of the team back and they get an instant upgrade in talent.

Of course, Savard won’t instantly go back to 20 to 25 minutes a game right away. There’s some concern over how he’ll respond to a full game with contact, especially such a physical team like the Flyers, but I’m guessing we’ll be getting a motivated player just itching to make a difference.