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Fresh ice, fresh times

April 14, 2011
Newly-painted Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is now.
Tonight is night two of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. After last night’s rollicking action, or inaction, as the case may be, it will be interesting to see what the next docket of games presents. I watched much of the Rangers-Capitals game through to overtime and the the Blackhawks-Canucks game, for the record. I was truly impressed by the Capitals’ play and their perseverance. The Canucks seemed to throw the Hawks ’round like rag dolls.
But really, tonight is the big night, because the Habs have landed in Boston and the puck drop is just hours away. Setting aside the media bonanza, what can be expected in this game, or what should one look for?
Carey Price and Tim Thomas. Need we say more? Both players have proven themselves worthy of Vezina consideration this season. Both players step up when their teams falter. With extraordinary goaltending, it becomes next to impossible to predict games, and I expect that to be the case here, failing complete downfall or collapse or injury on the part of one of the two. I will say, I’d be a lot more comfortable with Tuukka Rask as my back-up than Alex Auld. Just sayin’.
I expect Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand and Gregory Campbell to be out in full force. Of course, those last two are quite so “big” but they have the ability to be downright dangle-tastic when they want to be and aren’t afraid to take hits. Milan Lucic, as has been noted time and again, loves the big game. This plays to his strengths. Moreover, he’s been practically sleepwalking through the final 15 games this season. I hope he’s well-rested. Compared to Habs forwards, Horton’s big body will keep the opponents in line and will make it that much more difficult to battle for and dig out pucks.
The Canadiens’ power-play is lethal when faced by the Bruins’ penalty kill, which has been lagging as of late. Even if they don’t score, the quick and sniper-ways of the Habs send fear down the spines of the Bruins in the minutes after the penalized player has been released. The Habs play a strong, fast, cycle when with the man-advantage. Watch for PK Subban to drive pucks home (with screens, often) from the top of the circle. They pinch in on the blue line and do so with aplomb. They rarely let pucks drift behind or to the sides of the net on the power-play, preferring top and bottom of the circle regions to really drill in the pressure. All the shot-blocking in the world isn’t enough, sometimes. The key is, well, don’t let the Canadiens get on the man-advantage in the first place. And this means, in part, don’t let PK Subban get to you. 
TD Garden fans will bring it tonight. Boos, jeers of “Carey, Carey” and maybe some truly off-color and downright offensive shouts about Max Pacioretty or dialing 911 should be expected. If the Bruins display effort, they will be rewarded. If they don’t, the boo-birds come out. They’d best avoid that. Doesn’t look good on national television.
Look out.
That’s all for now. This promises to be a spectacular game and I couldn’t be more excited.
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