Thursday, February 26, 2009

Game Day vs The Mustache (and Ducks)

They may not be quite the same team that won the Cup just two seasons ago, but tonight's opponent is another one of those "measuring stick" games. But maybe not for the same reason as say the Detroit game earlier this year. In that game, everyone wanted to see if the B's could stack up against the best in the league. They've proven time and again, that yes they can. If of course, they play their game for sixty minutes. Tonight's tilt is a measuring stick for another reason; can they maintain the solid play from one game to the next against a hungry opponent? As Andrew Ference so wisely noted in today's Boston Globe,
"Other teams are upping their games because they're starting to look at the standings," said Ference. "It's a dogfight. It's easy to forget how desperate teams play when you're not feeling desperate [yourself]. There's probably danger in that."
Spot on Andrew. And it's something I hope everyone up and down the roster understands. The B's may have a comfortable lead, at least for the division title, but there are teams out there that are scrounging for every point they can muster. Anaheim is one of them, currently sitting in tenth place out West, but only a single point away from sixth in the uber-competitive Western Conference.

The game plan for tonight is pretty obvious; continue the physical, grinding style they played Tuesday against Florida.....only more. More physical, more tenacious on the forecheck, more aggressive jumping into the play....just "more".

The Ducks offensive leaders are Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan (Ryan only having played 44 games), all with twenty plus goals. Teemu Selanne is right there as well, with 19 goals in only 45 games. The Ducks are another pretty big team, with most of their skill guys having decent size. And they know how to use it, posing a challenge for the B's defensemen in front of their net.

On the back end, the Ducks are tough to match. Pronger and Niedermeyer being two of the better D in the league, and they play on separate pairs. And with the minutes they play, it seems as though one of them is on the ice at all times. They're two very different players, but each very effective. Niedermeyer is the classic smooth skating, puck moving defenseman everyone is looking for. He's also the proud owner of four Stanley Cup rings. This guy knows what it takes to win, and brings his A game every night (although surprisingly, he's a minus eight on the year). may have heard the name a bit recently in trade a beast. Big guy with a serious mean streak. Above average offensively, his hallmark style is that of a punishing bruiser. Another guy that has Championship pedigree, his teams always seem to go very deep in the playoffs. Boston forwards are well advised to keep their heads up with Pronger on the ice.

The Ducks goalie play hasn't been all that spectacular. Although, JS Giguere has played well in the Ducks last two games, both road wins. His numbers for the year however are just average, 3.09GAA & .903 save %.
Jonas Hiller, the co-number one goalie has a 2.26GAA & .922 save %. Giguere is expected to get the start tonight.

Rough stuff.
NOW we're talking...this is right in Anaheim's wheel house. Once again, they lead the NHL in fighting majors, with 64. By contrast, Boston is 18th in the league with just 33. Not surprisingly, "the mustache", also known as George Parros is leading the way with 16 bouts under his belt. What is surprising to me, is that Steve Montador is second with 11 fights. Even after trading away Brad May, the Ducks have plenty of willing combatants. In fact, they have more than 15 players with at least one fighting major this year. If you're looking for trouble, it's never hard to find it against the Ducks (do you think it's because they're over compensating for such a terrible name?).
I can't imagine not seeing at least one good bout tonight. If this is a world where George Parros doesn't scrap with Shawn Thornton, then it's a world I don't want to live in. Parros is their designated hitter when it comes to fighting the heavyweights. Being 6'5", 220lbs, that makes sense.
Montador on the other hand is a decent sized kid, but at 6'0" 200lbs, he isn't going to take on the true heavies (although to his credit he has gone with some tough guys, Crombeen, Voros, Jansen among others). That said, I could see a Lucic bout FINALLY happening tonight, and Montador would be a likely candidate.
I wouldn't be stunned to see Bitz have to get involved either, possibly against a Sheldon Brookbank or a Travis Moen type. Either one would be a tough challenge for the kid, as they're pretty experienced fighters.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the B's really step up their game. I'm looking for a 5-2 type win. Your scorers for the good guys are Kessel, Lucic (one of these days it has to be right), Ryder,Chara and Thornton (this is SO his style game).
Thornton vs. Parros is practically money in the bank, probably in the first period, if not the first shift.
Since that one will be out of the way early, I see Looch taking on Montador (or more likely, Montador taking on Looch if you want to be technical).
And just for kicks (and wishful thinking), I'll say that Bitz gets in a scrap as well. And If I have to pick a guy, I'll go with Moen. I was going to pick Kent Huskins as a wildcard for Bitz, but just learned he is on IR now.

No matter how you slice it, this game has potential to be very entertaining. One team trying to prove it deserves it's lofty status, one trying to show that the Cup winning team isn't that far removed from this bunch.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride (and no, I don't mean mustache rides, ya perverts).

Go B's- Kynch

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