Friday, April 3, 2009

Game Day vs Rangers, 4/4/09

In what is looking more and more like a Round One preview, the Rangers come to Causeway Street for a throw-down with the B's. And I do mean, a THROW-DOWN.

With a cast of characters on that team that is SO easy to hate, I fully expect some "tone setting" to take place. And what better way to celebrate "fan appreciation Day", than to give the locals what they want: Avery's head on a platter, and two points in the win column.

While the two points is always first and foremost, I will be decidedly pissed off if the Bruins put up with Avery's antics. He'll be in Thomas (or Fernandez's) crease all night. He'll be hacking and whacking the Boston net-minder relentlessly, along with anyone else within stick reach. And the mouth...oh, that damn loud mouth of his will be chirping incessantly. Someone NEEDS to shut him up. If, as it appears, the B's will meet the Rangers in the playoffs, establishing physical dominance now is a priority. And it all starts with Avery. As big of an a-hole as he is, the Rangers play better when he's at his mouthy, cheap shotting best. Shut him up early, and the rest of the Blueshirts will follow suit. Allow him to dictate the game, and his mates will also follow his lead.

Beyond Avery, resident GOON Colton Orr is sure to try and make his presence known. Handling him is a bit trickier. He's a legit heavyweight who serves NO other purpose than to fight. Trading anyone for him is losing proposition for the Black & Gold. With Thornton presumably out again, Boston doesn't really have anyone I'd want to see waste their time with Orr's nonsense. But, they also can't stand around and watch him take cheap shots all day. And trust me, this hammer head will do just that. It's a coin flip as to whether he'll be in the lineup come playoff time (I can't see why you'd waste a spot for him personally). So I can see this big dummy trying to make some sort of impact now. I'm not saying he'd intentionally try to injure some of Boston's skilled players to give his team an edge. But then again, I'm not saying he wouldn't.
In fact, he prefers targeting skill players. He'll always fight the tough guys, but it's usually because he did something nasty (aka; stupid) to a skill player to draw the ire of the opposition. Of course, he does have a number of the "staged fights" the NHL is hell bent on eliminating from the game (just watch tape of any of hi games vs. Pittsburgh this year. He seems to feel it's his sworn duty to fight Goddard, "just because"). At one time I had some respect for Orr, just because he's a very tough fighter. But that was short-lived. I've seen him pull enough BS on the ice that I've lost all respect for him. By now you all know how I feel about "the code". Well, I believe in SOME aspects of the code. Which puts me well ahead of Orr, because with him, there are no rules. He'll bully, fight and cheap shot anyone.

So what should Boston do? First thing is, they have to be the aggressors. Fore-check hard and take the game to them. If NY is stuck in their zone for most of the day,they'll have many fewer chances to throw the body around. Playing in their zone will also lead to penalties, which besides giving the red hot Power Play a chance to make them pay, will also keep hammer heads like Orr stapled to the bench where they belong. It's absolutely crucial that the B's match the Rangers intensity right away. A slow start against a goalie of Lundquits's caliber is a recipe for disaster.This is a very big game for New York. I'm sure they want to catch Montreal for seventh place (not that playing Washington is some great prize).

The second thing Boston has to focus on is, well....focus. They can't allow themselves to get too caught up in all the nonsense. Avery and Orr will certainly try to stir the pot. If it's just chirping and little pushes and shoves after the whistle, they need to ignore it. Do not allow the New Yorkers to suck you into a mud slinging type game. Let them take the dumb penalties, then punish them on the Power Play. The caveat is of course, if it looks at all like Avery & Co are "crossing the line", then somebody needs to step in quickly and put an end to it. SOME penalties are justified, and I'll have no problem with anyone taking care of an Avery or Orr type.

The problem is, as mentioned, with Thornton not Hell, even WITH Thornton playing, the B's don't have a true nasty tough guy to deal with the crap. Thornton, as evidenced in his last go-round with Orr, Thornton really wants no part of him. So that leaves the Chara's, Lucic's and....dear God, I'm going to say it,....Montador's of the team to take care of business. Chara would certainly do very well against Orr. Lucic would probably hold his own, but he isn't a lock to win. And Monty? Well, get the stretcher ready, because Orr just might kill him.

As far as the actual, legitimate hockey and "skill" part of the game, the Rangers have five 20 goal scorers, including new-comer Antropov, who leads the Blueshirts with 27. But for the most part, they've had trouble scoring goals. In fact, their 201 goals on the season is the lowest of any Eastern Conference playoff team, by a wide margin (Boston leads with 259G).

On defense, I'm not overly impressed. Despite picking up Derek Morris at the trade deadline, I don't think they have that true "high end" guy back there. Paul Mara has suddenly decided he's a tough guy. Must be the new beard he's been sporting most of the year. But beyond that, his skill level is roughly what it was when he was here. Which is to say, thank God for Aaron Ward.

In net, they do have a true star. Henrik Lundquist is one the premiere goalies in the NHL. If he gets on a roll, he can be near impossible to beat. Luckily for the Bruins, he has to play behind the very suspect NYR defense.

Since the arrival of new coach John Tortarella, the Rangers play a very high risk, up tempo style. It sure doesn't help their pathetic +/- numbers, but it does give them a chance to up their scoring at least. Again, Boston has to match this new-found "enthusiasm" and be ready right away for a frenetic pace. And I think they will be.

I really do expect the Bruins to come out emotionally prepared for the Ranger onslaught. I'm sure the Garden crowd will be fired up. And maybe most importantly, I'm convinced Tim Thomas will be motivated to "prove" he is worthy of the huge contract extension he signed today. Thomas thrives on proving people wrong, and I think this could be just one more thing to hang his hat on. "Oh, nobody thinks I deserve to be paid among the league's elite goalies, huh? Well, I'll show 'em!"

That being said, I'm feeling something along the lines of a 3-1 (possibly 3-2) win for the B's. Lucic, Rechi and Hunwick get the goals.

In the all but inevitable fisticuffs department, I'm going to say Mark Stuart applies the hammer to Avery, although he'll probably have to climb over a pile of fellow Bruins to get after him. In a fight instigated purely by Orr's lack of class, he'll tangle with SOMEONE....and the only guy I can see squaring off and doing any real damage is Chara. Now, I know nobody wants to see big Z get hurt fighting a goon like Orr. But, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. You can bank on this; if Chara sees Orr (or anyone) taking liberties with his teammates, he'll be right there to handle it. He really seems to be upping the "nasty" level lately, which is perfect heading into the playoffs.

No matter how the game plays out, I'm pretty confident it will be one entertaining game. It would be more entertaining if it included Avery taking a long visit to queer street after eating a few right hands. (ok, maybe "Queer street" was an unfortunate expression to use with Mr. Fashionista, Avery) Go B's- Kynch

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