Saturday, January 17, 2009

Game Day @ Washington, 1/17/09

Boston heads to DC for the biggest event of the month in our nations capital. Supposedly there are some parties and whatnot scheduled for early next week, but I can't see how they'd be any more entertaining than what is on tap for tonight at the Verizon Center. While President-Elect Obama and friends discuss world unity, the Bruins will be focused on attacking and defending against the Russians. Ovechkin, Semin, Kozlov, Federov.....OK, they may not be Stalin, Lenin, Brezhnev and Gorbachev. But they can be pretty intimidating in their own right. The Bruins will need to keep their cool against these four, and not reach for "THE Button". If Boston plays it's trade mark style of solid team defense, they should be OK. Of course, the biggest key to the game is keeping Super-Star Alex Ovechkin contained. This task will again fall mainly to Zdeno Chara. In their last match-up here (a Washington 3-1 win), Chara so frustrated AO, that he switched wings to try and free himself from big Z's relentless pressure. I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar situation tonight, as Caps coach Bruce Boudreau looks to give AO as much room as possible. But only if it were "just" Ovechkin you had to worry about. Unfortunately, the Caps also have Alexander Semin. Semin, slowed by injuries, is a huge second line threat. In just 27 games this year, he has put up a 17G, 21A 38P line. He also easily has the best +/- on the Caps, at +21. Not bad for a second liner. So all the work on D can't be left up to Chara. The whole team, forwards included, will have to work hard in all three zones. "Gap control" will be the catch phrase of the night for Jack and Brick. If the D give too much room in the neutral zone, they have no chance against the up-tempo Caps. Washington plays at a break-neck pace, at all times. Which can also backfire on them, allowing quick breaks in the other direction. If the B's play a sound, responsible game all over the ice, they should be fine. As gifted as the Caps are up front, they can be equally inept on the defensive side of the coin. Mike Green is their best Defenseman. After that, it's a crap shoot. Former Bruin Milan Jurcina is steady, but not spectacular. Banger John Erskine is a physical presence on the top pairing, but far from a shut down defender. Their goalie tandem is a lot like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. You never what you're going to get. Brent Johnson will probably get the start tonight. He comes in with decent numbers, 2.78GA and .909save%. Respectable, but not elite by any means (again, playing behind this Caps team isn't the easiest job in sports). Washington looks to beat teams by simply out-scoring them. Luckily for Boston, they have plenty of scorers of their own. With the depth of scoring Boston has, combined with the solid defense they play, I give the edge to the Bruins in this one.

This should be a VERY entertaining game. Any game that involves the most exciting player in the world should be, but this one even more so. Washington desperately wants to catch Boston for first place in the Eastern Conference. And Boston, aside from wanting to maintain their 11 point lead, are looking to "avenge" their loss last time in DC (their only road loss since Thanksgiving). I expect the Krejci/Wheeler/Ryder line to get back in the swing of things after a rare dud against the Islanders. All that being said, I'm looking for a B's, I can't commit to a score.....ok about 4-3? Scorers, I'll go with Ryder, Chara, Krejci and Kobasew.

Rough Stuff:
Donald Brashear and John Erskine are the top two heavy weights for the Caps. Erskine is the more valuable to his team (playing on the top D pairing). While Brashear is the more "feared" fighter. Big Brash, even after all these years, still stirs the pot with clean AND questionable hits. Look for him to try getting under the skin of every Bruin, especially Chara. He may not do anything directly to Z, but he'll almost assuredly try goading the Captain into a reaction. Any time they a guy like Brashear can take a guy like Chara off the ice, it's a huge win for him. Thornton, who already has a s many fighting majors this year as he did all of last year (12), may end up with lucky #13 tonight. Although, I'd prefer it be against Erskine. A more entertaining fight, and a bigger loss for the Caps than Brashear would be. For some reason, a "surprise" fight or two wouldn't stun me. Not that Matt Bradley would be a huge stunner.....but I can see him going with Mark Stuart. Stu seems like he's getting more interested in standing up and dropping the gloves lately. A very good sign by the way. So I say Stuart-Bradley happens as does Thornton-Erskine. Brashear tries to stir it up, but ends up taking a dumb penalty instead. As long as that goon Semin doesn't drop the gloves again, like he did against Mark Stall of the Rangers......I honestly don't think I'd be able to stop laughing long enough to watch the rest of the game. Go B's-Kynch

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