The Canes' run of four straight games against Northeast Division opponents continues tonight as the Boston Bruins come to PNC Arena for the first time this season. Sarah Connors is the managing editor of SB Nation's Stanley Cup of Chowder, and in between bites from her blog's namesake delicacy she was kind enough to answer Three Questions about tonight's game.
The Bruins have at least a point in all four of their games so far this year despite having exactly zero players in the top 75 in league scoring. What gives? Is it safe to say they haven't yet hit their stride despite their record?
Yes, I think that's safe to say - in part. The Bruins have a tendency to score by committee in the best of times, and it's that scoring depth that keeps them winning when their top scorers hit ruts. Tyler Seguin hasn't found the back of the net yet this season, and neither has David Krejci or Rich Peverley. However, the flip side of it is that only four Bruins haven't made it onto the scoresheet through four games, and two of those players have only played in two games so far.
It's not a particular concern yet - I'd say if we hit ten games in and Seguin and Krejci haven't netted a goal yet, then I'd start worrying, but four games isn't quite a good enough sample size. Both of their lines have looked great so far (Seguin with Marchand and Bergeron, and Krejci with Horton and Lucic).
With Dougie Hamilton on fire to start the season and all but certain to not be returned to the OHL, how will he be used as the season goes on? Has he earned Claude Julien's trust to play tough minutes, or will he be protected from burnout by the likes of Chara and Boychuk?
Dougie Hamilton has already been given tough minutes, actually. In the Bruins' first game against New York, he played approximately 9:00, mostly sheltered minutes with Dennis Seidenberg as his partner, and the pairings were Chara-Boychuk, Seidenberg-Hamilton, and McQuaid-Ference. However, Seidenberg then missed two games with some sort of minor leg injury. Hamilton was promoted to the top pairing with Chara, and Boychuk was paired with Aaron Johnson.
In that second game, Hamilton's ice time ballooned to 23:27. From there it dropped to 18 minutes in the third game and 16 minutes against the Islanders on Friday night, when he was reunited with Seidenberg. He's averaged about 4-5 minutes of power play time per game, as well - I think it's safe to say that Julien will not be using him in a sheltered role at all. He's proven that he's stalwart in his own zone and capable of making better breakout passes than...well, pretty much anyone on Boston's blueline right now.
And if anyone were to bail him out, it certainly wouldn't be Boychuk - he's rather the weakest link on Boston's defense right now. Paired with Seidenberg or Chara though, who can each cover for his few and far-between rookie mistakes, he's quite good.
- Which team is the Bruins' biggest threat in the division and why? If you're putting a percentage on the Bruins' chances to win the division, what's that number?
The biggest threat within the division...hmm, that's tough. It's not Ottawa or Toronto, it's probably not Montreal until Max Pacioretty returns and PK Subban signs...likely Buffalo, I suppose, at least until Montreal gets its ducks in a row. When that happens, those games will, as usual, be a delight. That said, I put Boston's chances of winning the division at approximately 1000%. Yeah, that extra zero was on purpose. :)