Capitals forward Brett Connolly became the fifth ex-Bruin to score against the team this season. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)
I had to rub my eyes. The picture was clear, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Brett Connolly received a pass, handled it perfectly, and found the seams in the B’s defense to bury his opportunity on Tuukka Rask and extend his team’s lead to two in the third period.
Shocked, I had to check my roster sheet and make sure that the Capitals did not have more than one Connolly than Brett the Bruin-turned-Capital. Nope. It was real, and it was him.
Connolly had scored a goal against the Bruins. A pretty one, too.
If Connolly, who might honestly have been the most snakebit man in the world last year (note: that was before I watched Patrice Bergeron this season), even tried that move a year ago, he would have tripped over his own body, lost the puck, and somehow landed in the penalty box with a bad penalty. But go figure, in just his 37th game with the Capitals, Connolly recorded his ninth goal of the season, the same he had in 71 games with the Bruins last season, and 76 games overall if you care to include his five-game sample from the year before. It was a goal that held as the game-winner for the Capitals in a 5-3 final over the Black and Gold.
Because of course.
The unlikely finish from Connolly, who was not even tendered a contract from the Bruins as a restricted free agent last summer, got me thinking. It feels that every game against a former Bruin ends with that player burning his former team in some fashion.
Is that right? Well, it’s not necessarily wrong.
Not if you care to include the larger sample size, anyways.
Connolly’s game against the Bruins was his first since leaving the Bruins for the Capitals last July, but it was the club’s 23rd game against a former player this season. Overall, he’s the 20th ex-Bruin to go against the Black and Gold this year — 21 if you care to include Matt Benning, an unsigned draft pick of the Bruins that signed with the Oilers last summer — and the fifth to have scored a goal against the Bruins. (Jaromir Jagr, Phil Kessel, Carl Soderberg, and Blake Wheeler are the others.) The goal also made Connolly the ninth player to record a point against his former team this season, again 10 if you care to include Benning on that list. He’s joined by Johnny Boychuk, Matt Hunwick, Reilly Smith and Lee Stempniak there.
The list of ex-Bruins held scoreless so far, in case you’re wondering, includes Seth Griffith (one game), Shawn Thornton (two games), Chris Kelly (one game), Dougie Hamilton and Dennis Wideman (one game), Dennis Seidenberg (two games), Matt Irwin (one game), Milan Lucic and Benoit Pouliot (one game), and Jarome Iginla, who was invisible in two games against the B’s.
In total, that group has totaled five goals and 13 points in just 23 games against the Bruins.
That production seems a tad high, sure — and it’s somewhat expected given the motivation a player has going against their old team — but it’s actually an improvement from last year, when the Bruins were torched at will from their former teammates.
In 33 games against the B’s in 2015-16, ex-teammates recorded 10 goals and 28 points.
It was a year where the heavy hitters came to collect against the B’s; Tyler Seguin had three goals in two games versus the Bruins. Joe Thornton recorded one goal and four points in two games. Lucic each had three points in two games against the Bruins. And it would have likely been a lot worse had the Bruins not shut Phil Kessel down for zero-zero-zero in three head-to-heads.
Even goaltenders found some success against the Bruins last season, with Chad Johnson and Michael Hutchinson combining for a 1-0-1 record against the Bruins and a .925 save percentage in three games against the Bruins.
Over the last two seasons, that’s 15 goals and 41 points in just 56 games. More simple math tells you that the Bruins have allowed their ex-talents to record 0.56 points per game against them this year versus the 0.85 points per game pace they rolled at last season. It’s still a kick in the head, especially when it costs you valuable points like Connolly did Wednesday night, but it’s a bit more tolerable and dispels the notion of this year being just a shinier version of everything that happened to the club last season.
At the same time, the Bruins are far from out of the woods of getting torched by friends-turned-toes for the second year in a row. Remember, the Bruins still have two head-to-heads with Thornton’s Sharks, Seguin’s Stars, and Loui Eriksson’s Canucks.
Thornton has 11 points in 13 career games against the B’s. Seguin has five in six. And Eriksson, the newest member to join the Club of Exes after Connolly and after spending three seasons with the Bruins before signing with the Canucks this past summer, has one goal and three points in four career games against the Bruins, though all came during his tenure with the Stars.
History tell us that those totals will bump up when those matchups come.
And it’ll probably sting when they do, too.