Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Game day! @ Montreal,10/15

Well, well, well......Game one of six regular season tilts against the hated Habs is tonight in Montreal. For the third straight game, Boston will be the visiting team for the oppositions home opener. And tonight's will be an even more elaborate affair as the Canadiens kick off their 100th anniversary season festivities. The atmosphere, always electric for a Bruins-Habs game, will be off the charts tonight. I'm sure the B's players, coaches and staff are well aware of it, and will be as prepared as possible to deal with it. Time will tell if they are or not, but I doubt anything other than the players on the ice (and of course, the officials) will decide the outcome. If Boston tightens up on D, and buries the chances they're sure to get, they'll come out on top....ending Montreal's 11 game regular season winning streak against the Black & Gold.

For Montreal, Christopher Higgins and Francis Boullion are out with injury. Good news, because Higgins for some reason always seems to score big goals against Boston.

Boston will be without Chuck Kobasew for three weeks with a fractured ankle. Otherwise, they enter the game healthy.

I'd expect to see Vladimir Sobotka in the lineup tonight after his recall from Providence. Presumably that means Nokelainen will be the healthy scratch up front. Other than that, I would expect to see the same line-up (Montreal is not a good first game match-up for Matt Hunwick, the other B's call up after the Alberts deal) Boston's biggest priority tonight is to stay out of the penalty box. Montreal makes their living with the man advantage. You simply can't afford to give them cheap power plays. With the rowdy crowd, the refs will be in a very giving mood they usually are in Montreal. So discipline will be a key. The Habs will do everything they can to bait bruins players into retaliation type infractions. They can't get sucked into those, even if they draw the Hab player with them. Four on four against Montreal is as good as being short handed. Five on five, I feel Boston is the better team. Special teams can't be allowed to decided the winner.
Beyond discipline in the penalty sense, the B's have to show improved discipline on the defensive side. As a team, they were very loose in defensive zone coverage in the first two game. They were better in game two, but need to be better still against the speedy Canadiens. Limit the clear chances on Thomas and let him make the saves he's supposed to, and Boston walks out with a well earned two points.

In what should come as no surprise (since I said so Monday!), Big Georges Laraque will be making his Canadiens debut tonight. BGL has been out with a sore groin, but has miraculously healed enough to play tonight against Boston. What a coincidence! Steve Begin will sit tonight to make room for three minute Georges (about all the ice time he'll see). As I've said all along, I love that montreal has to waste a roster spot for a guy that won't play regular minutes. BGL can, at times, be a decent player. His big body makes it next to impossible to get the puck from him once he sets up along the boards. Problem is, he's content to just sit there with it. He's not able to actually make a play with it, but hey, it's a good clock killing technique anyway. Personally, I'll take a guy like Shawn Thornton any day. He can actually play the game, and does a great job as the team enforcer. Not the big heavyweight of a Laraque, but much more well rounded. Thornton has been a huge assett for this team the last couple seasons. BGL's value is yet to be proven, but I doubt he'll have near the impact Thornton does. I guess all this BGL, Thornton talk leads me directly to the.....

The most obvious candidate from Montreal to be involved in the nastiness is Laraque. And I'm sure, in his first game wearing his hometown colors, he'll want to make an impression. Question is, who does he "target"? Will it be a reaction to something that happens on the ice? Or will he go in with a plan? That's hard to say, and I'm sure if something develops during the game, he'll have to react to that. But based on his off-season comments about not really wanting to fight true heavy-weights, and how Chara could be the toughest guy in the league, I wouldn't be surprised to see him try to take on Lucic. As big a fan as I am of Looch, this is an AWFUL idea. No way should Milan be fighting a guy like this. As far as Chara taking on BGL, that's a waste, and a win for Montreal. Any time they can get Chara off the ice, they have an advantage. So that leaves our boy Thornton to tangle with three minute Georges. My money says Shawn handles himself well against the much bigger man. He'll take a few, but he'll give Georges all he can handle as well. Should be an interesting match up, and one I'm kind of looking forward I'm sure Thornton is. I had the opportunity to speak with Lucic a bit this summer, and mentioned the Laraque signing. Far from being worried about it, he seemed to be looking forward to it. When I told him my first thought was "Boy, Thornton's job just got tougher", Milan just laughed and said Thornton was looking forward to it and that he LOVES that stuff. Lets hope it stays a Thornton-Laraque match up, and Lucic stays out of that one. Now, the bout every Boston fan would LOVE to see, is a Lucic-Komisarek tilt. Of course, in his typical rat fashion, "Komi" will take swipes, hack, and talk trash all night. Then run behind a ref and not drop the gloves. This has all the makings of a Neely-Ulfie feud (minus the injury's we hope). Lucic, I'm sure, wants to settle things. If Komi were smart (and I'd never accuse him of that), he'd drop the gloves tonight and get it over with. Otherwise, he'll spend the season looking over his shoulder for Looch. Sometimes you just have to "man up" and accept responsibility for your actions.
Beyond the usual suspects in the rough stuff game, a Boston Montreal game always seems to spark fisticuffs from guys you wouldn't expect it from. last year, Mark Stuart laid a beating on one of the Kostitsyn sisters (which one doesn't matter to me). This year, who knows? if Nokelainen is in the lineup, I'd pencil him in as my dark horse candidate. But, I'm willing to bet he sits tonight, and Sobotka plays.

Boston wins, 4-2. Ryder, Kessell, Sobotka & Chara are the goal scorers. There are a minimum of two fights (which will be the first two for Boston this season). Thornton goes with BGL in one, and Lucic goes with Montreal's "other tough guy", Maxim Lapierre. I still expect a surprise fight guess as to who it is (unless Nokie plays), but look for a Bruin you wouldn't expect to drop the gloves tonight. Go B's-Kynch

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