Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bruins vs. Lightning: Stuff To Look Out For

Begin Step 5 of the Bruins schedule, otherwise known as "Bruins vs. the Southeast Division". The upcoming schedule reads: Lightning, Panthers, Lightning, Caps, Thrashers, Thrashers, (Leafs), Hurricanes. 14 points on the line against some of the East's most tepid opposition... this will be critical to any conference championship hopes that may have started to glimmer for the B's. It begins tonight with a road game against the imploding Lightning.


Some storylines to follow:

- Coaching disaster: Let's face it, Barry Melrose took a huge bullet for the Lightning front office when he was fired. Coming into the season, all the buzz around the Lightning concerned the risky moves they had made by reinventing the roster practically overnight and hiring a 15-year studio analyst as head coach. To say the least, a weak start was written on the wall -- the hope was that they'd gel by Christmas and be a playoff dark-horse.

So much for the plan. At the time Melrose was fired, the 'Ning were 5-7-4, but playing .500 hockey after a slow start. Under Rick Tocchet, they've gone 1-3-4. Whoops. Changing coaches doesn't change the fundamental need for a team to become cohesive over time. Melrose did a decent job with the roster he was given, which was ultimately not a team of his own design anyway. Now the Lightning are simply a mess, and saddled with loads of veteran players who will need to be dumped before season's end. Finger-pointing, begin!

- Minor league affiliate: To make matters worse, Tampa's ECHL farm team (the late Augusta Lynx) folded this week, creating a scheduling nightmare for the surviving franchises.


- Overtime: The Bruins have never lost to the Lightning in overtime, in 15 games. Meanwhile the Lightning lead the league in OT/SO losses this season. Of course, all trends must come to an end...

- Injuries and replacements: Boston is hitting the midseason doldrums, losing depth players nearly every game to injury. The latest casualty was Aaron Ward, out with a "lower body injury" (looked like a hip flexor to me). Marco Sturm is still out with a concussion. Tim Thomas will start in net, but is recovering from a brief illness. Defensemen Matt Lashoff and Johnny Boychuk (great hockey name!) were recalled from Providence -- expect Lashoff to get the first opportunity to play, with Boychuk as a scratch. Lashoff will probably not be the next Matt Hunwick, but he is a decent depth blueliner.

Meanwhile the Lightning are dealing with numerous injuries to vets like Gary Roberts, Jeff Halpern and Chris Gratton. According to the Tampa Tribune, expect mediocre center Ryan Craig to return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch. Mike Lundin and Evgeny Artyukhin will not play for the Lightning, and Matt Smaby has been recalled to play tonight. I have no idea who any of these people are...

Basically, it's easy points on the line for Boston. The Lightning and Panthers are on the skids and quite vulnerable to a strong offensive attack. You simply cannot lose games like this, if you want to be considered "elite". In 3 games against Tampa and Florida, the Bruins should shoot for 5-6 points. Anything less and we're looking at a harsh stumble going into the holiday schedule.

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7 comments:

Trinette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Bastard said...

Those two would be a lot easier if we had a working defense... Ference, Ward and Wideman all out. Not a promising sign...

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom said...

Susan

I'm going to assume you are an automated message, and delete that comment. If you are a real person, my apologies -- please feel free to post in the future WITHOUT unrelated external links.

Tom said...

I'm wondering if Wideman's seriously hurt or being held out since we're playing a few weak opponents in a row. I'd rather have Boychuk in there against the Panthers if it means we get Wideman healthier for the stretch run. I guess we'll find out soon...

The Bastard said...

From the Globe:
And with only minutes to go before the opening faceoff, blue liner Dennis Wideman beckoned a tow truck be cause he was hurt in warm-ups, according to coach Claude Julien.

"Does it have to be upper body or lower body?" asked Julien, skirting around what part of the anatomy Wideman injured while shooting the puck. "Let's go with middle body."

It's likely Wideman aggravated the groin injury that hindered him for a large chunk of last season. He made it through warm-ups, then disappeared (unavailable for comment after the game), giving way to Lashoff and Boychuk

Tom said...

Ugh... groin injury means he could be out 2 days or 2 months.