As Peter Chiarelli addressed the media on Monday regarding the status of David Krejci, who is out for at least a week with a concussion, it was clear as day that for a team that's off to such a hot start (7-3-1), the Bruins sure do have to give a lot of injury updates. Their top goal-scorer of a year ago, Marco Sturm, is still recovering from knee surgery. A top-pairing defenseman in Johnny Boychuk is nursing a fractured forearm. And the team's top two centers, Marc Savard and Krejci, are each having their own issues with concussions.
Whether they like it or not, the 2010-11 Bruins have spent all season dealing with the tests that accompany misfortune, and to this point, they've passed with flying colors.
Through 11 games, the B's rank among the NHL's top 10 clubs in goals per game (3.0 per game, 7th in NHL), goals against average (1.7, 2nd in NHL), power play percentage (21.4, 9th in NHL) and penalty kill (92.9 percent, tops in the league). Whether the Bruins can keep it up remains to be seen, but it has appeared early on that this is a Bruins team that is capable of taking what is thrown its way in stride. After being served an injury/inconsistency cocktail throughout the course of last season, the Bruins believe they're prepared for lesser misfortunes this year.
"Adversity this year, compared to what we dealt with last year, is nothing," Chiarelli said on Monday. "I like to think that they're a little hardened that way. I think they're going to handle it well."
So, what makes this squad so capable of dealing with adversity? Here are a few reasons.
1. They're deep
All of that draft-time talk of having far too many centers has quickly turned into it's-a-good-thing-they're-so-deep-at-center talk. Without Krejci, they'll really be tested, as they will now see a week -- the Bruins have three games between Sunday, the day they announced Krejci's prognosis, and Saturday -- without two of the guys once figured to be in the picture back in June. So far, they've gotten along without Savard at center and even Sturm on the wing because they have the manpower to fill in some big holes.
If the Bruins wanted to, they could easily get away with average play in front of the outstanding goaltending they've gotten from Tim Thomas, but the numbers (and sight) suggest that they have not been content with that outcome. Their three goals a game are more than half a goal better than their season average a year ago, and they can thank the additions of Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron, as well as the health of Milan Lucic.
After all, the Bruins weren't at the 11-game mark yet a season ago before they lost Lucic for over a month. The then-21-year-old broke his finger in the sixth game of the season, and as he dealt with the finger and an ankle injury en route to a 50-game season, the Bruins went on to post numbers as the league's lowest-scoring offense.
Even given where they were a season ago, it's no surprise that the offensive additions they've made, coupled with the five goals Lucic has notched thus far, have been enough for them to be a formidable, if not elite, offensive team. And they've still got to add two of their top players (and earners) in addition to Krejci.
Defensively, they've also gotten sound play from Adam McQuaid, who has averaged 14:03 as the Bruins have gone 3-1-1 without Boychuk. The B's blue line doesn't expect to have Boychuk back until later this month at the earliest, and faces a test on Wednesday against the dangerous scorers Pittsburgh has to offer.
2. It's built-in
"Adversity" might be the most overused word in sports, but the city of Boston was granted a free pass to grill the Bruins as much as they wanted after the ups and downs of last season. A season of disappointment ended abruptly when the B's famously blew a 3-0 series and Game 7 lead to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and it is in that regard that there is almost a bed of adversity lying beneath everything the Bruins do this year. To the avid hockey observer, they're one of the most talented teams in the NHL, but to the average sports fan, the Bruins remain the team with something to prove.
As tired a subject as the Eastern Conference semifinals is, the Bruins opened training camp and the season unwilling to put it to bed. Upon returning from their summer hiatus, management, the coaches and the players spoke about how their intention to was to respond to, and not forget, the way things ended a season ago.
The adversity -- much of which was brought on by fans seeking accountability -- did not begin and end with the Flyers series, of course. The team's lack of a response to the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard when given multiple chances against the Penguins was the regular season preface for the postseason collapse, and following the March 18 dud against Pittsburgh, even the organization was open to pointing out the perceived struggles the team had with responding.
"It's been very disappointing to see the way our team has performed with that lack of emotion. It's something that we try to instill here," Cam Neely said on WEEI on March 19, also noting that, "I don't blame our fans for complaining about the fact that they don't see that compete or that passion that they want to see.
"When you're playing in an Original Six city, and they have the history of the players that have played here and gone through the players of the old Garden or have worn that jersey, you've got to understand what it means to put that jersey on, because you're not just playing for yourself or your teammates, you're playing for the fans and the players that played before you," he added. "Our guys have got to know that."
Fast forward about seven months, and it seems Neely is far more satisfied with the group. Prior to his accepting the Lester Patrick award, Neely was talking about the 2010-11 edition of the Bruins when he was asked about what he felt the Bruins were lacking a season ago: character. The B's President responded by singing a different tune than he did in March, expressing his approval with the room they've put together this season.
3. They're open to experimenting
As the injuries really pile up, even a deep team has to get creative. It isn't as simple as swapping one guy in for another without the lines seeing some shaking up.
That's where the Bruins are right now. Obviously Savard and Sturm haven't factored into anything yet, but the team did have one top line that remained consistent in the first 11 games of the season. The second and third lines saw minor tweaking on the wings, but not until the Krejci injury were each of the three top lines changed.
Blake Wheeler, who has spent time at wing on both the second and third lines this season, appears set to take over as second-line center as Patrice Bergeron jumps from the second line to the top line to skate between Lucic and Horton.
With Wheeler -- a candidate for a move to center during training camp before the team settled on Seguin as the third-line pivot -- seemingly set for a stint at center, the Bruins are looking at giving big minutes to someone who hasn't played the position since college, but they are also stressing ability above all else. The team bandied about the idea of calling up a center from Providence, but ultimately decided that playing Wheeler at center and giving Daniel Paille the opportunity to dress again was the right option. They're showing faith in their guys, and it seems they will until it stops working. So far, so good.