Monday, February 9, 2009

How Awesome Is This Game Going To Be?

The Bruins host the Sharks tomorrow. How awesome will it be? It'll be this awesome:

- Boston leads the Sharks by 6 points in the overall standings, but San Jose has 4 games in hand. Therefore, this matchup could very well determine the eventual President's Trophy winner.

- This is the first, and probably the only time this regular season that the conference leaders will play head-to-head.

- San Jose is mired in a "slump" (loosely defined) involving a couple of OT losses to playoff bubble teams. Boston has split a pair of OT games in its past two contests. Both teams are facing long road trips ahead and could really use a boost in confidence.

- This will be the second time that Joe Thornton has returned to Boston since the infamous trade two years ago.

- The first time he returned, Thornton was ejected after two minutes for this illegal hit.

- Goaltenders Tim Thomas and Evgeni Nabokov are 2nd and 5th, respectively, in GAA among goaltenders who have played 30+ games, and 1st and 12th respectively in save %. Yet both struggle to be widely considered top-10 at their position.

- These are the second- and third-highest-scoring teams in the league (the Wings are #1).

- These are the first- and third-stingiest defenses in the league (the Wild are #2).

- Marc Savard and Thornton are possibly the best passers in the league, along with Sidney Crosby.

- Four defensemen -- Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman for Boston, Dan Boyle and Rob Blake for the Sharks -- are in the top-15 scorers among defensemen.

- Boston and San Jose are 4th and 5th, respectively, among all power plays. San Jose has the league's 4th-best penalty kill whereas the Bruins are 10th.

- 6 of the league's top 10 +/- ratings can be found on these rosters.

- San Jose's Joe Pavelski and Boston's Stephane Yelle are 6th and 7th, respectively, in blocked shots. That's right, even the shot-blocking defensive forwards are elite in this game!

- The only bummer about this game is injuries -- former Shark Marco Sturm will not get the chance to face off against his former club. Michael Ryder will join Sturm on injured reserve after undergoing surgery to repair his fractured orbital bone. Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward is a gametime decision, but likely to return after missing a game due to the flu. The Sharks will be missing defenseman Brad Lukowich and geriatric chatterbox Jeremy Roenick.

- Both teams have suffered a bit from mid-season fatigue, so perhaps it's a good thing that they've both been idle since Saturday.

It's been the hottest ticket in hockey for months, ever since it become obvious that the Eastern Conference was a one-horse race and that the Sharks were set for a franchise-best season. Expect a lot of media talk about Stanley Cup previews and "setting the tone", but the coaches will undoubtedly do their best to maintain focus on getting 2 points in the here and now.

Regular-season hockey doesn't get much better than this!

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Mortimer Peacock said...

I can't wait. It's going to be a hell of a game.

Is there any nostalgia for Joe Thornton among Bruins fans? I can't imagine there would be when you've got a guy like Savard. Sigh...

Tom said...

Aside from the extremists -- some who still hate Thornton for his underachievement in Boston, some who are still not reconciled with management over his trade -- I think the majority of Bruins fans have pretty much moved on.

It would be very different if they had dealt for another superstar, say Marleau, and tried to make him a "replacement" figure for Thornton. But in reality, blowing up the roster turned out to be a much more cathartic way to get rid of the old memories (Bergeron and Axelsson are the only vestiges of the '04 team). Getting Savard helped a lot, but mostly it was a matter of going through a couple years of tough rebuilding to get rid of all the bad mojo.

Bruins Buff said...

Should be a great game and a great test for the B's.

And Hal Gill isn't here to ruin it this time!