March 29, 2011: Blackhawks v. Bruins
Milan Lucic, practicing at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, MA, yesterday. Photo courtesy of bostonbruins.com.
Tonight, the Bruins will face the defending Stanley Cup champions—the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks are fresh off a 3-2 overtime win over the Red Wings.
The Blackhawks seem fated to come out roaring tonight. The Bruins, having regained confidence against the Flyers, could be poised for a breakout game. The drastic improvements on the power-play (two power-play goals in the last three games) and suddenly snappy and pinching defense make them a more formidable opponent. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks play a punchy, up-tempo, “never back down” sort of game. Though they’re not overly large or boisterous, they’re quick, they’re offensively stacked, and nearly any time Hossa, Toews, Kane or Kopecky are on the ice there’s an opportunity for a downright lethal shot. It should be an extremely interesting game to witness how the Bruins handle such a smooth-skating, transitionally-gifted team. To compare it to Eastern Conference terms, they combine all the speed of the Canadiens with the best sniper skills of the Flyers. Their defensive core is unrivaled, however. Keith, Campbell, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson pack a one-two punch few teams boast, with the latter two being the more shutdown defensemen types. Keith and Campbell are Kaberle 2.0. And Corey Crawford is a very good goaltender.
The Bruins will have to prepare themselves. It would seem Tuukka will get the start in net tonight—not a bad idea at all.
Then, the healthy scratch, what can be said?
Michael Ryder stands to be scratched again in what seems like the never-ending merry-go-round of healthy scratches at wing between Paille, Seguin and Ryder. Coach Julien’s logic has become clearer. Seguin’s hot, and it seems Julien will ride him while he’s hot. Paille fills in nicely on the fourth line, despite the numerous scratches earlier in the season, he’s a solid defensive presence. Ryder, of course, is the odd man out. Perhaps Recchi will take some maintenance days in the final two games of the season—and Julien will be allowed to see Ryder’s performance while on the second line with Marchand and Bergeron. It’s unclear where Ryder fits in. His timely goals in the playoffs will sorely be missed, but his streakiness will not help the team.
More curious is the situation on defense. Shane Hnidy has yet to play a game this season and is off the injured-reserve. Kampfer has been docked since his mishap in overtime against the Predators in which he took a bad penalty that led to a power-play goal. It’s possible the Bruins will opt to carry two extra defensemen through the playoffs. Really, why not? Hnidy and Kampfer offer radically different options should a play be fallen by injury and a plug be needed. Hnidy offers grit, Kampfer brings speed and transition game. It seems unlikely either will be assigned to Providence, whose playoff hopes seemed mostly dashed. Whether or not such “competitiveness” to earn slots is a healthy thing to have in the defense corps at this point in the season remains to be seen. Everyone is playing well. But anything can happen in playoff hockey, and having Kampfer and Hnidy waiting on the wings will need to be the status quo, for now.
Five thoughts on tonight’s game:
- Tuukka Rask will need to be lights out. I don’t know why I say this, but, I do belief there are certain opponents Tuukka is better suited to than Thomas. I think teams that possess quick offensive talents will lethal shots are better for Tuukka. Teams with a “grind it out” style, lots of garbage goals and crease-cramping might be better for Thomas. Just a though.
- Milan Lucic’s time to find his game is now. A power forward like Lucic, if in his prime, will throw a wrench in the Hawks’ plans unlike any other sort of player.
- Tyler Seguin is due for a goal and tonight’s a good time. He is able to elevate his game and I think he can do it.
- The clinching of the playoff spot shouldn’t be an indication to the Bruins it’s time to slow down.
- No dirty hits, please.