Regular season Update on the Boston Bruins

By pbadmin

Oct 19/97

It’s several weeks into the regular season, and last year’s worst team
has been a pleasant surprise. Yep, with their 12 new faces/rookies, they’re
among the best teams in the NHL, record-wise! With their current 8 game
road trip, they are now 5-2 after winning 4 straight. Not to mention, they
already have 3 shutouts — 2 by last season’s sieve Jim Carey, and 1 by
Lord Byron Dafoe. Let’s give a round of applause to coach Pat Burns,

Now, how about those rookies… Per-Johan Axelsson. That’s all I have to
say. Forget Samsonov, Thornton, Mann, and all those other over-hyped Calder
candidates. It’s the PJ Axelsson show! He’s got excellent speed, agility,
moves, plays with intensity, and is good defensively. Who is PJ Axelsson,
you ask? Well, he’s not that much of a surprise, but he just didn’t receive
all that hype I mentioned. Truth is, he had a great season with his Swedish
Elite team, Frolunda, where he scored 19G, 15A, 34P, 34PIM in 50 games. As
is usually the case with Swedish players, their numbers often don’t look as
good as they should because of the Florida Panthers/NJ Devils like trap
system that’s so popular in the Elitserien.

Currently, Axelsson is playing LW on Boston’s “top” line (as if you can
really call a line with C Tim Taylor and RW Rob Dimaio a top line). At
least Pat Burns calls Tim Taylor his top center — he still can’t believe
Detroit put him on waivers… Anyways, Axelsson truly seems as if he’s the
best of the rookie crop in Boston right now, but perhaps Samsonov,
Thornton, and company can overtake him in a year or two, because he’s
already matured as a hockey player — he’s 23 now and has already honed his
skills in the Swedish Elite league for a few years. The Bruins do believe
he can still break out of his offensive shell with some experience in the
NHL, but so can 18 year olds Thornton and Samsonov.

How about the other rookies, you ask? Thornton really didn’t get too much
ice time, especially while playing on the “fourth” line (okay, it really is
a fourth line this time) with LW Mike Sullivan and RW Ken Baumgartner. I
hope Mr. Burns knows what he’s doing with him — he says he wants Joe to
hone his defensive skills there. I wonder if he’s getting the ice time he
truly needs to develop? I think the Bruins are worried about looking
foolish if they send Thornton back to juniors or, not likely, AHL
Providence. After all, they had that huge promotional campaign before the
season and introduced Thornton to everyone in Boston — including the
media, who wrote numerous articles on his talents and when he would save
the team like Mario Lemieux did in Pittsburgh in 1984.

Samsonov often plays with C Bates and RW Khristich and gets more ice time
than Thornton, especially on the power play, where he, Allison, Carter,
Donato, Khristich, and Heinze are regulars. He is playing well, but you can
see the difference big, experience defensemen make in the NHL — he can’t
beat them one on one anymore, and he gets hooked and bumped off the puck in
the corners and in front of the net. He’s no Peter Forsberg, you know.
Indeed, some Bruins have mentioned that Samsonov is trying to beat people
too often by himself and should pass more. He’s still shows his abundant
skills, feeding Bates for a breakaway goal. Experience should serve him
well, as would having better players to play with, as is the case with all
the other rookies like Thornton and Axelsson. So far, he’s got 3 points in
8 games. When Steve Heinze comes back from his ankle injury (which will be
anywhere from 1-3 weeks, depending on how he feels), he will solidify the
RW spot on Khristich and Samsonov’s line, or he’ll play with Allison and
Donato, and Carter will slide down to play with them.

About that Shawn Bates, he’s fairly impressive, too. He’s got some
serious speed and has shown to be better physically than was expected of
him, working hard for Pat Burns — he was a scrawny 6’0, 180 in college

Currently, the lines are (until Heinze returns from injury):

Donato Allison Carter

Samsonov Bates Khristich (Khristich and Bates switch sometimes)

Axelsson Taylor Dimaio

Sullivan Thornton Baumgartner

Sweeney Bourque

McLaren Malkoc

Ellett Timander