Thursday, October 1, 2009

Game Day vs Washington, 10/1

And so it begins. With a chill in the air, and optimism on the rise, the Bruins get back to work tonight at The Garden. And this year's opener is no cake-walk. Facing the explosive Capitals right out the gate can be a daunting task. Not sure I'd want to try handling a fresh, excited Ovechkin right away. But that is the task at hand. I think the boys are up to it.

The B's lineup:
Not an awful lot of changes from last year, which all in all is a good thing. The lines looks to shape up like this:


I love the balance of all four lines. Any one of them can score, and the fourth line has the potential to cause havoc every shift.

The D pairs should be:

Yikes. I'm pretty sure I like the top pairing just fine......partly because, I'm pretty sure even I wouldn't look totally out of place playing with Big Z.
The second pairing scares daylights out of me. That has Keystone Cops written all over it. They'll be fine in the offensive end (unless Wideman decides to go on one of famous skates through the countryside and/or insist on using his big slap shot, which he has yet to hit the net with). But in their own zone, I don't like them at all together. Especially against a big, physical and highly skilled team like the Caps. This could get ugly for those two, quick.
I actually think I might prefer the third pairing over the Wideman/Ference duo. Stuart as established himself as a fairly reliable stay-at-home defender, while adding a bit of offense to his game as he's gone along. Hunwick, while he didn't have a great camp, has tremendous offensive upside and can skate with anyone. Defensively, he has some work to do, but isn't awful by any means. All in all, a more than serviceable #6 defenseman.

The Caps:
When looking at the Caps roster, it's pretty obvious where it all starts. Alex Ovechkin, love him or hate him, is the most dynamic player in the NHL today. His mix of speed, skill, size and fearlessness puts him on another level. We all know he has a booming shot, and soft hands. He also has a serious nasty streak, and goes out of his way to initiate contact. But he's not alone. Washington is loaded with, big, talented players. Newly acquired Mike Knuble (a long time favorite in these parts) should be a big boost to their net-front presence. The Caps, for all their size, have never been great at going to the net. The veteran Knuble will fill that void nicely (although they do it differently, Recchi will fill the same role for Boston). Add in talented youngsters like Backstrom and Semin, and you have lots of star power. Old friend Michael Nylander has lost a bot of his magic, but can still be a lethal play maker.
On D, former B's prospect Shaone Morrison and offensive specialist Mike Green anchor the Caps back end. One of my personal favorites, Milan Lucic may not play tonight, as I've heard rumors of him being scratched. Don't know why he wouldn't dress, but he's turned himself into a decent, stay at home defender. Perhaps the Caps want more speed on their back end to match up with Boston?

For Boston it really is simple. Keep Ovechkin in check. Basically what that means is, don't let him dominate the game. He may score, he usually does, but if you hold him to one goal as opposed to a hat trick, you have a shot. Boston will have to match Washington's skill level, while at the same time winning the physical battles. As big as OV and his mates are, several of them (especially OV) tend to get very distracted by constant punishment. Lay it on early and often, and you get them out of their game.

Washington's one true tough guy is John Erskine. A very big body (6'4, 220lbs), Erskine is an inconsistent fighter. One night he looks like a heavyweight contender. The next, some smallish "nobody" gives him all he can handle. I wouldn't be surprised to see a Thornton- Erskine throw down at some point, as both guys do a good job of protecting their star players. So, go after OV, expect Big John to come calling. Go after, say, Savard, expect Thornton to step in. But, Boston's biggest advantage is, they have a roster full of guys who will do that, and do it well. With Lucic riding shotgun with Savvy, it isn't easy to get away with anything on the B's top pivot. And guys like Stuart, Kobasew and Ference (among a slew of others) have all proven they'll gladly defend a teammate. Washington lost their hired gun, when Brashear defected to the Rangers. Of their 40 fights last year, Brash had 14of them. Next highest total was a mere 5 (Bradley & Erskine each had 5)
So, here's hoping we get off to a busy start with the fisticuffs!

I say Boston wins, 3-2. Thomas is called on to make some spectacular saves, and he delivers. Wheeler, Bergeron and Chara are your scorers.

Thornton and Erskine drop the gloves in a decent bout.
OV gets booed for carrying on after a brutal Chara hit.
Go B's-Kynch

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