Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bruins vs. Rangers: Stuff To Look Out For

Too damn early: These afternoon matinees are great for young families, terrible for bloggers. I woke up at 9 CST (10 EST) this morning and realized that the Bruins game was less than three hours away. Great for hangovers, terrible for game previews.

Mini-playoffs: The Rangers jumped out to an early lead in the Eastern Conference, largely as a result of playing 3-5 more games than anyone else but have been gradually losing ground ever since. They're walking a fine line between "contender" and "first-round fodder", so expect them to treat this as -- say it with me -- a measuring stick game. The peril of playing every Eastern contender in the space of a week is that the pressure never lets up. It's like the playoffs; every other night you face a team with that "I've waited all season to beat YOU" look in their eyes.

So far the Bruins are 1-0-1 in their mini-playoffs. That gives me reason for cautious optimism in this game, as the Bruins and Rangers always go to a shootout and therefore a charity-point is usually in play.

Fernandez chatter: Here is comes again -- without doing anything at all, Manny Fernandez is becoming a distraction. Hub Hockey reports that Fernandez' "general soreness" in his back is related to the knee injury that cost him all of last season. If this is true, it might torpedo any plans to swap Manny at the trade deadline, while simultaneously making him a giant question-mark for the late season and playoffs. Meanwhile, Stanley Cup of Chowder calls for Tuukka Rask to start this game, to see what the kid's got to offer and give Tim Thomas a day of relief. If Manny's going to be unreliable from now on, I'd like to see Rask getting one out of every five starts... just in case.

Which Rangers will it be?: So far this month, the Blueshirts have been torched twice by the Pens, crushed by the Habs and lost squeakers to the Caps and Sabres. They've also picked up victories against opponents from all over the spectrum of difficulty: Islanders, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Anaheim, Chicago. Pressure is starting to build on King Henrik, who was awful in the third period of their previous game (after being abused in the All-Star game). I'm thinking Tom Renney's neckties are starting to feel a little tighter every night.

"Maintenance Day"?: Hub Hockey also reports that David Krejci skipped practice for what Claude Julien called a "maintanance day". Just when you thought the Bruins were finished with injuries to their top-5 forwards...

Key matchup: Scott Gomez vs. Marc Savard. Gomez is one of the few stable things about the Rangers roster, reliably scoring points while making things difficult on opposing centers. Savard will be trying to get pucks to both Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic, both of whom are trying to rediscover their touch after returning from injury. If Gomez can make life difficult for Savard, he might be able to take a big bite out of the Bruins offense.

Fight I want to see: A matchup between Colton Orr and Shawn Thornton? Yes, please!

Other Previews:
Stanley Cup of Chowder
The Hockey Blog Adventure
Wicked Bruins Fan
The Big Bad Bruins
The New York Rangers Blog
Rangers Report

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The Bastahd said...

Wow... here is hoping for the first of many from Tuukka...

Tom said...

Quite a game from the young man!