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Bruins in the month ahead

January 11, 2012

We’re 11 days into a fresh year. Marchand is sidelined by suspension, the team continues to look strong and continues to impress. Last night’s come-from-behind win against the Jets confirmed once more that the Bruins are the pre-eminent club of the East. With Staal, Letang and Crosby expected to be out for long(er) periods, the Capitals in perpetual state of psychic disarray and inconsistency, the Conference is the plaything of the Flyers, the Rangers and the Bruins.

Here’s three ideas about the games ahead in January, and three games in particular to look at.

1) More starts for Tuukka?

Sure, he let in some softies last night. But Tuukka Rask has been spotless in his play since the end of October. He is pushing the envelope for the 1/1A regime currently in place and not getting enough credit for it. But will Julien et al. have the gumption to shift more of the burden away from their Vezina-winning man to Rask? Time will tell. My money is on Tuukka long term, but what if now short term, too?

2) Can Seguin be consistent?

He’s been on fire the last five games, but he was quiet for a large chunk of December. When he’s fighting for pucks in corners, forechecking, playing good D, he is the best player on the ice. Why does he disappear some nights, and not others?

3) Will Krejci not get thrown out of the faceoff dot so often?

Seriously, why? Krejci wins faceoffs like bees make honey when he is actually in them. But roughly a quarter of the time he is thrown for cheating, infringement. Lucic has done a fine job in lieu of him. But I wish a ref would enlighten us to what Krejci is doing.

Now, here are the key match-ups of the month, now that we’ve run through those initial 11 days and all.

January 14th: Hurricanes vs Bruins, 7pm

The Bruins faced the Hurricanes twice in October, losing in both games. Indeed, playing miserably in both games. I expect a fully rejuvenated Bruins team to make the most of the match against Carolina in their home barn. Canes games have had a way of getting chippy for the Bruins: will they be able to stay disciplined?

January 21st: Bruins vs Rangers, 1pm

This will be a big one. The Rangers have been playing beyond their means of late, which is typical of Tortorella’s teams, but the difference now is that they are healthy, deeper an actually playing beyond their means frequently. Everyone likes to tout a New York club, so I am reluctant to go down that path. That said, I think the Rangers have given the Bruins fits in recent years and I consider them a key opponent on the path to another Stanley Cup appearance.

January 31st: Capitals vs Bruins, 7pm

It’s true I said the Capitals are suffering some kind of psychic disarray. Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom remain out, goaltending has questions, Ovechkin is starting to score again (or is he?) and Dale Hunter is a lame duck, etc, etc. There’s a lot happening for Washington, and they’re sorting themselves out. Fresh off All-Star weekend, how will each team conduct themselves as focus-time sets in during the final stretch of the regular season? They were considered favorites at the start of the season, and now cracking the playoffs is giving the Capitals trouble. The Bruins played mighty well against them last year–will that continue?

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