Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bruins vs. Panthers: Stuff To Look Out For

Continuing the Sunshine State road trip, the Bruins head to the NHL's southernmost destination for a rematch with the Panthers. Last time these teams met in Boston, with the Bruins winnig 4-2. The highlight of the game was when Nick Boynton dropped the gloves with Lucic and got a little, uh, fucked up.

Things to keep an eye on tonight:

M.A.S.H. Unit: It's that time of year when you can't really avoid minor injuries any longer. The Bruins will be missing Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward tonight, and Dennis Wideman is still questionable. That means the Providence Bruins will be supplying half of our defensemen: budding star Matt Hunwick, average reserve Matt Lashoff, and Johnny Boychuk (who, judging by his name, is a comic book sidekick in his spare time).

But far be it from us to complain. The Panthers are the poster children for crippling injuries. They will enter tonight without the following forwards:
David Booth (top goal scorer with 12. twice as many as the next guy)
Nathan Horton (4th on the team in points with 13, right behind Booth's 14)
Cory Stillman (near the top of the team in +/- when he was injured)
Richard Zednik
Rotislav Olesz

Ouch. It goes without saying that both teams will have to deal with personnel issues in this game.

Better than you think they are: Not to put too fine a point on it, but Florida sucks almost every year. Like the Isles, they are the kind of team you can get used to thinking of as a doormat.

But the Panthers really aren't that bad. Currently they're tied with Buffalo for the 9th spot in the conference, only 1 point out of the playoff bracket. They've beaten the Sharks, Ducks, Caps and Rangers (a 4-0 curb-stomping last week) and played close games against Montreal and Detroit. This is all counter-intuitive and based mostly on the otherworldly goaltending of Craig Anderson, who is the only guy in the league who can challenge Tim Thomas' stats this season. He starts tonight, so be on the lookout for a goalie-driven performance by the Panthers.

Speaking of goalies: Manny Fernandez starts tonight. Manny is doing everything in his power to keep from being relegated to a true "backup" status. He's won 6 straight including 1-goal showings against Detroit and Montreal. The Bruins play well in front of him and he's incredibly re-established himself as a 1A next to a guy who has every right to win the Vezina.

Look out for: Expect Jay Bouwmeester to have an impact. Incredibly, it took the guy 21 games to score his first goal in the biggest season of his career (in the sense that he's being shopped openly to other teams). In their 5 games since, he's scored 7 points as the Panthers have gone 3-0-2. Considering their massive injury issues they're facing to their forward core, it's highly likely that this guy will have the puck on his stick at every possible opportunity.

Letdown game: Ok, I've made this prediction a few times lately... but this time I feel pretty sure about it. It is highly improbable that the Bruins will continue to win games at the pace they've been going lately. There has to be a stop eventually, and this game represents a likely chance for it to happen. Road game with injury issues in front of a small crowd against a team that's got no reputation but isn't half bad and has a phenomenal goaltender. It's gotta happen tonight, right?

Other previews:
Cornelius Hardenbergh
Stanley Cup of Chowder
Kynch's Bruins Korner
Cat Scratch (Panthers)

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1 comment:

Nuuuuugs said...

They pulled out the one goal squeaker on the Bolts, but looked methodical in the win tonight. No let down, this team is playing with a ton of confidence.