Monday, December 8, 2008

Game Day VS Tampa, 12/8/08

Fresh off a successful two game swing through the Sunshine State, the Bruins are back on home ice tonight. The Lightening come to town firmly entrenched as the Eastern Conference's cellar dweller. Talk about a tale of two cities. Boston, an Original Six, cold weather city sit atop the standings with 40 points. Tampa, an abomination of a hockey city to may purists, sits at the bottom, with 20 points. Tampa has spent boat loads of cash on their star players. But they've done so at the expense of building quality depth. They've also spent it all up front, with Lecavilier and St. Louis earning the lion's share of their cap space. On the flip side, look at how the B's have built their team. They shelled out big money for Chara and (at the time) Savard. Then they paid Fernandez well. Then Ryder. But none of those, with the *possible* exception of Chara (and Fernandez if you count him as a back-up) could be considered crazy deals. Savard, at this point, is an absolute bargain. Ryder, while making $4M, is starting to heat up.....and hey, Murray was making that kind of money the last few years too. So at worst, that's a wash (but I like Ryder's upside a whole lot better). By not being locked into huge deals the B's were able to develop young players. They've also done a great job of finding "bruins" in their drafting. Identifying a style of player has been a huge boost for this team. Tampa seems to be a team without an identity. They tried building around "The Big Three" of Vinny, St. Louis and the now gone Brad Richards. Guess they forgot that they were a Stanley Cup team because of their goal tending. They are getting some decent goal tending lately from Mike Smith. But he's no Nikolai Khabibulin. Having said all that, let's not assume anything. Smith has been playing well, so he could come in and steal one. St. Louis and Vinny are still dangerous offensive players. So they could score just enough to earn just their 7th win of the year (Boston comes in with 18 wins). But with this Bruins team, I've given up worrying about them over looking any opponent. I fully expect them to come out hard and to try and run it up. One thing you can say about this B's squad: they have a great killer instinct. As Shawn Thornton said, once they get a decent lead, everyone wants "their cookie". I like it. In recent years, once they got up a couple goals, they sat on the lead. Julien has gotten everyone fired up about keeping the momentum rolling. If you can score 7 or 8, why not? Looking at this month's schedule, you get the feeling their will be lots of cookies for everyone. ROUGH STUFF PREVIEW Tampa's biggest tough guy, David Koci, is out of the lineup with an injury. Koci, then a Blackhawk is best remembered around here for bloodying up the Garden ice at the hands of Zdeno Chara last year, pictured above. (It was a great beat down by Z, but I always feel the need to mention that Koci had just had his nose broken 2 days before. So kudos to him for trading punches with the big man in that situation). Tampa's not exactly loaded with feared fighters, but they do have 14 bouts this year. It's spread fairly evenly between famed brawlers like Ryan Malone and Ryan Craig. Yawn. But they do have one of the most uncommon fights on their record this year. GOALIE, Mike Smith dropped the gloves (but not his mask) with Rangers forward Aaron Voros. Smith was the instigator for sure. He put a nasty slash on Voros, the cross checked him at least twice, then punched him with a gloved hand. Not very often you see a goalie fight anyone other than another goalie. Not to be outdone by his 'tender, super star forward Vinny Lecavilier dropped the gloves the other night with Jochen Hecht of the Sabres. Vinny was doing pretty well (I mean, it was Hecht for crying out loud) at the outset. But absolutely stopped throwing them when Hecht caught him with one good right. Guess he suddenly remembered he's supposed to be a scorer not a fighter. The one guy the B's need to be wary of is Steve Downie. Not because he's a great fighter, but because he has a reputation of being a cheap shot artist and head hunter. He's never one to pass up a chance at a dirty hit. His whole career, even back in juniors is marked by nasty cheap shots, suspensions and general ill will. (he's the guy that got 20 games for his head hunting hit on Ottawa's Dean Mccammond in a pre-season game last year. Downie was the poster boy for the Flyers dirty ways last year. That should about sum him up. Predictions: Bruins run away with this one, 6-1. Downie takes a run at a top line player and gets his lunch fed to him by whoever is on the ice at the time. If it's Kessel, Looch handles it. Downie is not a great fighter, and is only 5'11" and 200lbs. He better hope he doesn't run anyone while Lucic is around. Or Thornton. Or Chara. Or Hnidy. get the idea. Go B's-Kynch

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