Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bruins vs. Wild: Stuff To Look Out For

Bruins look to get back on a winning track tonight against Minnesota. The media will make a big deal of the fact that Boston hasn't lost two regulation games in a row this season. Or they will make a big deal of the fact that the Wild have picked up at least a point against Detroit and San Jose in the past week.

One thing you can count on: when Jacques Lemaire and Claude Julien go head-to-head, it's not going to be an offensive exhibition. The last time the Bruins played a defensive-minded opponent (New Jersey) they won 1-0. Expect that kind of game tonight.

The Wild have a pop-gun offense -- Owen Nolan is somehow leading the team in goals per game -- and they just learned that Marian Gaborik has effectively quit on the team. Their best hope for making the playoffs is to hold their opponents even, capitalize on mistakes and take advantage of the charity point.

On the other hand, they have some of the best names in hockey. Owen Nolan, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Colton Gillies are hockey names if I've ever heard one. Cal Clutterbuck, Nick Schultz and Brent Burns sounds like the top of a batting order. Derek Boogaard, Marek Zidlicky and Krystofer Kolanos are just wow.

The Bruins' goalie duel is the most remarkable I've ever seen. It's insane to characterize Tim Thomas as a backup, considering he's made a pretty solid case for Vezina consideration, but the fact is that Manny Fernandez has been the better of the pair in the past month or so. Julien has been fair about playing the hot hand, so look for Manny to get the start tonight against Niklas Backstrom, another Vezina darkhorse who's coming off a shutout. All three of these gentlemen are in the top-7 in both GAA and save percentage.

Bad News: Looks like Marco Sturm will be joining Patrice Bergeron on IR, while he undergoes knee surgery. No timeline on his return, though one would have to think April would be an optimistic estimate. Between Bergeron and Sturm, the Bruins are missing most of a solid second line (60 goals between them) and are wasting an $8 million cap hit. This is definitely going to have an effect on player movement at the trade deadline.

Good News: Aaron Ward will be a gametime decision, on the mend from a charley horse. Hopefully he'll actually finish this game. Also, Andrew Ference is getting closer to returning.

Bonus item: The Wild are the only NHL team with an undefeated record (4-0) in Boston.

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The Bastahd said...

Did you catch the Minnesota game last night by any chance?

Tom said...

Yep, I watched it. Minny played a perfect road game, IMO. Thought the Bruins might pull it out, but some nights it's just not to be.

The Bastahd said...

What did you think of the officiating? Seemed really poor to me with the first four calls going against us for unnoticeable or minimal infractions and then no interference call late in the game when one seemed deserved.

Mind you, I was at the game so I didn't have the benefit of replays to see whether calls were legit or not. Seemingly questionable certainly put a damper on the evening...

Tom said...

I would agree with that. At least half the penalty calls were marginal, especially the holding-the-stick call which was the result of a hook by the other player.

I don't blame the officials for the loss, because really we played a good enough game to win but just couldn't get the puck in the net, but yeah... they didn't help the cause by putting us on the PK so often. Maybe they were expecting a trap-tastic game and were trying to be proactive against obstruction.