by Bob Morello
Bruins to honor Rick Middleton
Tonight (Thursday), following the ceremony honoring Rick Middleton’s No. 16 to the TD Garden heavens, the Bruins will play their 25th game of this season. With more than one-quarter of the season completed, the team is currently in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, and sixth place in the Eastern Conference, following their Monday loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve managed to stay close to striking distance of the top of the Eastern Conference, and looking at the big picture, that’s pretty good, considering the injury losses they’ve been faced with. They have taken a major blow to their blue line, with losses of key players, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and rookie Urho Vaakanainen. The injury bug continues to attack the team when defenseman Kevan Miller, shortly after returning to the lineup, was hit by a puck in the throat, sending him to a Toronto hospital, and an overnight stay. Add in the list of losses, forward Patrice Bergeron, and it makes one wonder how this team is managing to keep pace with a roster so severely depleted.
One of the major reasons for their resiliency is due to the fact that the team has been the recipient of several solid games in goal, turned in by Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask. The result of the two-goalie tandem had earned them points in the previous five games, leading up to their loss to Toronto on Monday. The Bruins open a brief two-game homestand tonight (Thursday), following the retirement of Rick Middleton’s #16, as they take on the New York Islanders. The Detroit Red Wings will provide the opposition for the Saturday (7:00pm) contest, both teams are positioned below the Bruins in the current Eastern Conference standings.
The month of December will be busy for Boston, with 14 games scheduled, seven at home and seven road games. Next week the Bs will travel to Florida on Tuesday (10/4 at 7:00pm) to take on the Panthers, before meeting the continuously streaking Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (10/6 at 7:30pm) on the Lightning’s home ice.
RICK MIDDLETON #16 BANNER RAISING TONIGHT (THURSDAY):
NESN analyst Andy Brickley will host the pregame ceremony to retire Rick “Nifty” Middleton’s number 16 jersey, beginning at 6:30pm, joined by Bruins President Cam Neely, Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs, and former Bruins head coach Don Cherry, alongside a select group of Boston Bruins legends. Also participating in the ceremony will be Middleton’s former youth hockey coach Frank Miller, members of the 2002 U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team, and Middleton’s family. Middleton is the 11th player to have his sweater honored by the Boston Bruins in franchise history, joining Lionel Hitchman (#3, 1934), Aubrey “Dit” Clapper (#5, 1947), Eddie Shore (#2, 1949), Milt Schmidt (#15, 1957), Bobby Orr (#4, 1979), Johnny Bucyk (#9, 1980), Phil Esposito (#7, 1987), Ray Bourque (#77, 2001), Terry O’Reilly (#24, 2002) and Cam Neely (#8, 2004). Middleton played 12 NHL seasons with the Bruins from 1976-88, compiling 402 goals and 496 assists for 898 points in 881 games. He ranks fourth on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list with 898 points, behind Ray Bourque (1,506), John Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound right-winger led the Bruins in scoring four straight seasons from 1978-82 with 40 goals (in 1979-80), and also led the team in goals six straight seasons from 1978-84. His best season was 1981-82, when he was named a second-team All-Star after scoring a career-high 51 goals – joining Phil Esposito (5), Cam Neely (3), John Bucyk and Ken Hodge as the only 50-goal scorers in Boston Bruins history. He also received the 1981-82 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, Middleton passed the 100-point mark twice in his Bruins career. He tallied 44 goals and 59 assists for 103 points in 1980-81, and then notched 47 goals and 58 assists for 105 points in 1983-84, tying Ken Hodge for the most points by a right wing in franchise history. He was a key piece of the 1977-78 Boston Bruins, which was the only team in NHL history to feature 11 different 20-goal scorers in the same season, to help lead the team to an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Middleton helped the Bruins to postseason appearances in 11 of his 12 seasons. In his 114 career playoff games, he totaled 45 goals (including eight game-winners) and 55 assists for 100 points, tying John Bucyk for the third-most postseason points (100) in team history. He holds the NHL record for most points in one playoff series with five goals and 14 assists for 19 points in the 1983 Division Final vs. Buffalo.
Middleton, a Toronto, Ontario native was originally selected by the New York Rangers in the first round (14th overall) of the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. He played two seasons with the Rangers from 1974-76, posting 46 goals and 44 assists for 90 points in 124 appearances, before being acquired by Boston in exchange for Ken Hodge on May 26, 1976. A well-deserved honor for a man who as a player, served the Boston Bruins well!