Friday, March 27, 2009

"One More Lonely Night...

....Just one more lonely night...." Ah yes, the words of this long forgotten Fleetwood Mac song ring true for Bruins fans tonight. One more lonely night without seeing our boys in action. I seriously think I'm in full-blown withdrawal. I'm shaky (but not in the same sense I meant when I called David Clarkson shaky...long story), irritable, bored and prone to using 70's rock band obscure song lyrics for blog titles.. This is not good. I need a damn Bruins game soon! Thankfully, we just have this one last lonely night (it's so bad I'm actually watching the Worcester Sharks-Springfield Falcons game on the NHL Network. I may need an intervention).

Tomorrow the Black & Gold are back in the GTA to take on the pension plan puppets (I prefer pension fund failures myself), also known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Laughs, oops, Leafs are sitting in eleventh place in the East right now. But, under new GM Brian Burke they are playing a much more inspired brand of hockey. Not surprisingly, since Burke has been in command the Blue & White are playing a much more physical style. Players know Burkie won't hesitate to can them if he doesn't see the requisite effort on every shift.
The last full game of theirs I watched was a 5-2 beat down of the Canadiens in Montreal. Hard to say if the Leafs were playing that well, or if Montreal just played that poorly. It was right in the heart of the Habs glorious slump so it's hard to say. But Toronto was winning every single race to loose pucks and was clearly the more determined team. I fully expect that type of effort from them against Boston, so they bet be ready to come out using those fresh skating legs.

The Leafs are led offensively by the pesky Jason Blake. It seems hard to believe he "only" has 25 goals. Seems like every game I watch he's scoring at least once. Backing up Blake in the scoring column is Alex Ponikarovsky with 21G. After that it isn't exactly murderer's row, although Grabovsky seems to be playing very well lately.

On the back end, the lead dog (and I do mean DOG) is Tomas Kaberle. I know his numbers are more a reflection of the terrible team play, especially in net, but I've never understood why everyone raves about the guy. He's probably at the upper end of the mid-tier defensemen in the NHL. But he's far from a Chara, Lidstrom or even Greene in my opinion. He isn't good enough at any one thing to rate as an elite player. He's pretty good defensively, but isn't a "shut-down" guy like Chara. And he has some offensive skills, given the opportunity. But he's not exactly Greene piling up 25 goals. In fact, he has a paltry 4 goals to go along with his 21 assists. And his unsightly -14 +/-. Just to underscore his lack of stats, he has an embarrassing 8 PIMS on the year. I'm sorry, but if you're a D-man on a bad team that plays that many minutes, you HAVE to have more PIMS than that. You just do. But enough about Kaberle....he isn't in the line-up anyway!

And without Kaberle, that shifts a good deal of the load to highly touted rookie Luke Schenn, Ian White and Jeff Finger (he of the ridiculous contract). Finger, I think everyone can agree is far from a premiere D in this league.
Ian White is a decent little player.And at 5'10" 185lbs, I do mean little. But he's managed to put up 9 goals and is a plus 2. Not terrible considering the team's situation.
That brings us to Luke Schenn. Before I go any farther, let me say I think he's a great prospect and if he was in the Bruins system I'd be thrilled. That being said, I really hope somebody pounds the little bastard. He's very mouthy for a rook and loves that extra little shove, whack or slash after the whistle. Just something about him aggravates me, and I'm sure it's not helped by him wearing the maple leaf on his chest.

In net, the Leafs are an absolute mess. Complete and utter joke. I mean, not good. And by not good I mean, they're wishing they never let Andrew Raycroft get away. Now do you see what I mean? They figured scooping up Martin Gerber would settle their issues in net. Well, for the next three games he won't have a chance to prove that theory right, as he'll be serving a suspension for bumping an official. That forced Burke's hand, and prompted the return of Justin Pogge. Pogge is the guy who's play in the AHL Burke described as "fair....not bad, but not great. just...fair." How's that for inspiring confidence in his teammates, huh? There is an outside shot that the nearly fossilized Curtis Joseph could get the start, but Pogge is the presumed starter for Saturday.

Toronto pretty much has Jamal Mayers, well Mayers and....ok, so it's pretty much Mayers now that they sent Deveaux back down to the Marlies. Burke brought in his old friend Brad May to be the veteran leader/grit guy they needed. But he isn't nearly the fighter he used to be. He'll still stir the pot plenty, but he isn't an intimidating force out there. If there is to be a fight, Mayers would clearly be the odds-on favorite to go for the Leafs. Being a Saturday night in Toronto, I would almost bet there is a fight or two. Tough for the home town team to NOT get in a scrap or two on Hockey Night In Canada.
Shenn, to his credit does have four fights so far, and they're all against fairly legit guys (Davison, Boll, Neil and Kennedy). Tyler Kennedy was by far Schenn's smallest opponent, but he's also the only fight he's had that he didn't initiate in defense of a teammate. This one was started by the diminutive (5'10, 175lbs) Kennedy in response to a big Schenn hit on Malkin. So again, if he was in a different uniform I'd probably like him a lot more. Hopefully someone feeds him his lunch at the Air Canada center though (although it's a can't win situation if you go looking for the kid. The "code", in it's most recent version states that you leave 18 year old kids alone for some reason. Pretty sure that goes out the window now that he's been the aggressor in more than his share of scraps.)


Boston should be well rested and ready to go. But because of the long break between games, I expect them to start slowly and find their legs as they go on. That should limit the scoring to something like 4-1. Ryder, Krecji, Wheeler and Lucic are your scorers.
As far as the rough stuff goes, I fully expect Thornton to get into it with Mayers. In my wish list bout of the night, it's Lucic putting a hurting on Schenn. If I had to guess, it will be after Looch hammers Van Ryn with yet another huge hit. Van Ryn has been on the wrong end of practically every huge Lucic hit this year, including the glass breaker.
It's been a week without hockey. Lets hope the wait was worth it. Go B's-Kynch

Side Note- How the hell did Phil Kessel come up with an "undisclosed injury" during the easiest week of the year? I don't like the sound of this one at all. He appeared healthy and happy in footage from practice yesterday (or was it Wednesday?), so not sure what happened or when. My biggest fear right now is that he's either sick again with mono, which could be devasting with the playoffs approaching in a mere two weeks.
In the worst case scenario, I can't get the thought of his bout of testicular cancer a couple years ago. Let's just hope and pray that he doesn't have something as serious as that again. Hockey threatening injuries/ilnesses I can handle. I'd hate to think it was something worse.

As an aside, this is the worst part about the Bruins new habot of complete and total secrecy about injuries. It gives people too much time to sit and wonder, speculate and start rumors about what it could be. So for the record, let me be perfectly clear....I KNOW nothing. I don't have any inside sources with the team (none that would know something like that anyway) and all I'm saying is I HOPE IT ISN'T SERIOUS. That is ALL. So please folks, let's not get the rumor mill cranked up until Julien tells us more, possibly next week.

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