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On hockey

Bruins' streak sends the mind racing

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / November 25, 2011
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The Bruins are Causeway Street fightin’ men, and they will never lose again.

That’s how it looks this morning, with the 10-wins-in-a-row Stanley Cup champions poised to take on the Red Wings in an NBC matinee today at the Garden.

Asked to answer the bell Wednesday night in Buffalo, where the Sabres attempted to win back some of their dignity, the Bruins knuckled down a couple of Buffalo’s braver souls (Paul Gaustad, Robyn Regehr), then scaled their way back from a 2-0 deficit to put another 2 points in the win column, via a shootout.

The Bruins haven’t lost since Eddie Shore was strapping whale bones to the bottom of his work boots, and they are the hottest team in the NHL, the first defending Cup champions to click off 10 in a row since the Devils rattled off 13 straight wins during the 2000-01 season.

It’s all impressive in and of itself, but all the more when considering the stumblebum, sleepy-headed, job-entitled way in which the Black-and-Gold began the season.

For those with short memories here in these fast-paced Twitter-and-blog times, they were 3-7-0 in October, looking far more like the NHL team that moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg over the summer than the one that in June moved past the burdensome legacy of its Big, Bad Bruins heritage.

“We kind of kissed away that first month,’’ coach Claude Julien noted Wednesday night after his squad scribbled “SWAK’’ on the 2 points at the First Niagara Center.

Is this a better team than the one that won the franchise’s sixth Cup in June? The 10 in a row would say so, but it’s worth remembering that the glare and intensity of November hockey are daguerreotype versions of those that shine like no other in April, May, and June.

As heightened as senses were in Buffalo, where the Sabres needed to make right for their apathy after a Milan Lucic hit on star goalie Ryan Miller 11 days earlier, it still wasn’t playoff hockey.

Oh, and is there a bigger dud in sports than settling an intense, hard-fought, 65-minute barn-burner with a shootout skills competition? There is a lot of good in the New NHL, but the shootout remains a poor excuse for getting off the dial well ahead of the 11 p.m. nightly news.

Shootouts are to a good hockey game what those paltry pineapple chunks, stuck with a toothpick, are to the dessert menu of a gourmet restaurant. Really, a bottle of fine wine, escargot, a cut of melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon and . . . a cube of Dole’s Hawaiian De-Lite? Come on.

But I digress.

From a Boston perspective, Benoit Pouliot’s shootout game-winner, a wrister over Jhonas Enroth’s left shoulder, certainly wasn’t all that distasteful. I guess. Every win has its beauty, as we heard myriad NHL coaches preach during hockey’s Dead Puck Era, the decade or so leading up to the 2004-05 lockout.

Still, there has to be a better way to settle the W-and-L thing, an issue the NHL has struggled with since its inception. Personally, as I have stated for years, I would make it strictly a W-L sport that ends in 60 minutes during the regular season. No overtime. No shootouts. And if it is tied after 60? Then both teams go home with nothing.

Sure, a big ol’ zero sounds harsh in these everyone-gets-a-trophy times. It even sounded harsh to NHL team owners at the turn of the 20th century. But imagine how the teams would play in the closing minutes of a tied or one-goal game.

Seems to me we’d really have a hockey game, and not a staged breakaway contest.

I bring this up, in part, because the NHL held 13 games on Wednesday night and seven went to overtime, with three of those reaching the shootout. Ten of the 13 games were settled by a single goal. The biggest spread of the night came in Colorado, where the Avalanche lost yet again, 3-0, to the Canucks.

When it comes to parity, the NHL is perfection. The separation between the clubs is less than the space betweenthesewords. But I contend that so many close games are due, in part, to the seduction of overtime. It’s always out there, safe harbor, the 3-point temptress, where even a loss isn’t really a loss. They are a coach’s institutional binky.

Can I prove this? Of course not. If I could, I wouldn’t be going to this length to convince you, dear readers, or trying to wake up the misguided Lords of the Boards. I’ve simply seen enough now to believe the game would have more pulse and meaning if you removed the everyone-gets-a-trophy concept.

The idea of doing more with 60 minutes gets me far more excited than figuring out how to spice up five minutes of OT or, worse, selling me a phony-baloney skills competition.

I know, I know, the Bruins have won 10 in a row and the Red Wings, an Original Six band of brothers, are here today on Causeway Street. If you are reading this, you are most likely a dyed-in-the-woolen-sock Black-and-Gold fan who simply wants to know if emerging wunderkind Tyler Seguin (eight goals in this 10-game streak) is going to blow the feathers off that Winged Wheel logo this afternoon and whether the Bruins will keep on winning like it’s the spring of 2011.

I don’t have those answers, either, but I do know Seguin is turning into one of the game’s best takes, the release of his shot nearly as fast and deadly as his legs. I’m not sure the Bruins ever have had his likes in the lineup.

Game time, 1 p.m. Enjoy the show. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come with a pineapple.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.

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