Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bruins vs. Leafs: Stuff To Look Out For

The Bruins take on the Maple Leafs tomorrow night, ending a 4-day break. Here are a few plotlines to follow:

Statement Game: The two teams are basically neck-and-neck in the conference and divisional races; a Leafs win would vault them past Boston into an unexpected 2nd place. Two weeks ago, Toronto surprised the Bruins by playing a pretty solid game and scoring 4 straight goals. The secret is out -- they might not be a dynasty in the making, but the Leafs regularly exceed expectations and are not a doormat. In this game there will be no surprises, so it will basically be a benchmark to see whether Toronto is for real.

Rest or Rust?: The Bruins began their season with a frantic schedule including two long road trips, so the Powers-That-Be rewarded them with a few days off after Saturday's victory over Dallas. Under normal circumstances I'd be worried that they'd come out and stink up the Gahden for at least 20 minutes, but that might not be the case this time around. The team was supercharged after the emotional, fight-filled win over Dallas and has had 4 days to let that energy stew. I would not want to be the Leafs in this situation.

Playing to Their Strengths: The Leafs are solid on offense (12th) but one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL (27th). The Bruins are pretty much the opposite (25th and 12th, respectively). That's pretty much all you need to know about how they'll approach this game. Daring prediction: the Leafs will try to score a lot.

Manny?: No word yet on starting goalies, but this is the sort of game you'd expect Julien to hand over to Manny Fernandez. Tim Thomas has been smoking hot of late, but Manny needs reps if he's going to actually compete for the #1 position... though that ship appears to have sailed already. [update: Boston.com predicts that Thomas will start his fifth straight game tonight. This pretty much puts a fork in the notion that he and Fernandez will be a platoon -- hope that bench seat's comfy, Manny.]

Clean Bill of Health: Chuck Kobasew is expected to return to the Bruins lineup after nearly a month, which makes the Bruins officially a healthy team with nobody on IR (of course there are always murmurs about unreported injuries, particularly about Chara's health). Likewise, the Leafs have no injuries at present. [update: Looks like I spoke too soon on this one. Kobasew will not play until at least Saturday, and the Bruins will be missing the services of Shane Hnidy with the mysterious "lower body injury". Mark Stuart is day-to-day with the flu; no word as to whether he skates tonight.]

Hunwick In, Sobotka Out: Fan favorite Vladimir Sobotka was sent back to Providence, presumably to make room for Kobasew's return. Word on the street is that Shane Hnidy will sit out the game after giving his fists a nice workout on Saturday, and will be replaced by rookie Matt Hunwick. Hunwick played a solid game against the Habs in his only other appearance, so it will be interesting to see what he does with this opportunity.

Shootouts: Combined, the teams are 1-6 in the skills contest. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Leafs Blogs:
Bitter Leaf Fan
Down Goes Brown
Battle of Ontario
The Wonderful World of Loser Domi
Pension Plan Puppets

And just for kicks, the best Youtube vid you'll see today:

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1 comment:

woodpeck said...

lets go Tim THOMAS! yahoooo!