Monday, January 12, 2009

Habs-Bruins preview

So. It's been a while since these two teams met. Since then, Boston has gone on an impressive tear to become the best team in the Eastern Conference. With only ONE LOSS in the entire month of December, the Bruins seem unstoppable. Considering that the Bruins embarrassed the Habs the last time they played, Montreal fans should be worried.

Montreal finds itself comfortably in playoff position, with a better record now than at this same time last year. The Habs have won four straight, despite injuries to Alex Tanguay, Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins, and Carey Price. Georges Laraque, while not essential, could benefit Montreal in a phyisical game against Boston.

Speaking of which, Milan Lucic has been day-to-day, but the smart money is on him playing tomorrow. It will be interesting to see him renew hostilities with Mike Komisarek, especially now that he does not have to worry about ducking Laraque. Another key player for Boston will be Michael Ryder, who has once again flourished under his old coach Claude Julien. (All evidence for Ryder's slump last year seems to point to Guy Carbonneau's shortcomings as a coach.) David Krejci rounds out the list of key Boston players.

On the other side, Montreal's Alex Kovalev has started to heat up, along with the Habs' power play. Actually, the entire Montreal power play is the key "player" to watch tomorrow, as it has been getting better, and could make the difference. Komisarek has returned after injuring his shoulder in an ill-advised fight with Lucic, and there is obviously no love lost between the two. Boston has Lucic; watch for Maxim Lapierre to be on the ice antagonizing the Bruins' top players. He is centering a very hot third line at the moment, and Carbonneau will probably use him against Boston's best.

Now for a bit of editorializing/baiting/discussion:
What is the cause of the Bruins' success?

Marc Savard's continued growth is certainly one reason, along with the acquisition of Michael Ryder and the chemistry he has forged with David Krejci. Phil Kessel continues to grow into his role, and Lucic has brought excitement back for the fans.

A puzzling aspect is Boston's defense, which has remained largely the same since last year. Zdeno Chara is still woefully incompetent with the puck in his own end, and Andrew Ference, Shane Hnidy, Matt Hunwick, Matt Lashoff, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman, and Aaron Ward round out what would otherwise be a group of very average defensemen.

Another puzzling part of the picture is Boston's goaltending. Tim Thomas has a 2.08 GAA and .933 save percentage, which defy explanation. Thomas (and most Boston fans would agree) has atrocious positioning and lacks basic fundamentals. Yet, Like Dominic Hasek, he makes the save, no matter how ugly. Alternately, Manny Fernandez has almost identical numbers. His success has come as a surprise to many, as he had previously spent his time in Boston watching from the press box with one injury or another. Both goalies are 34 years old, which would suggest that their best years are behind them.

I haven't watched any Boston games since the last debacle against Montreal (one can only take so much of Jack Edwards), so I am eager to see what makes this team tick.
All I can say is, I am grateful that I left the Boston area prior to this sudden explosion of success from the Bruins. The real question now is, how long will it last? Boston does have Tukka Rask waiting in the wings, and he should be ready by the time Thomas and Fernandez (inevitably) falter. Boston's forwards are good, and will probably get even better, but the defensemen leave me scratching my head, trying to figure out how they have been succesful.


Capt. Sparrow said...

The Bruins probably have if not the best then one of the best forechecks going in the NHL right now. Always right on top of the opposing defense when when in the zone. The most underrated part of the Bruins defense this season has been the play of Dennis Wideman. He has been the anchor/quaterback of this defense, I think he might be leading the league in +/- (not sure but I'll have to check on that one). But there is no doubt the the Bruins success this season has started with the play of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez. You could make the argument that they both deserve to be playing in the all star game this year (btw fan voting is a joke in the NHL and that system really needs to be changed). I think one of them might be moved by the deadline to pick up another top-6 forward especially with Marco Sturm now pretty much done for the year and a ot of questions surrounding the return of Patrice Bergeron. Both of their contracts are done at the end of the year so only one would be back next season anyway with Rask coming up to the parent club. Marc Savard has been unbelievable but the main reason for success on offense for this team is the underrated offensive depth this team has. Your in really good shape when your top line has been your 3rd line of Ryder, Wheeler, and Krejci.

Sorry I haven't returned your phone call Geoff, I've been busy as hell with the wedding coming up in June, working 2 jobs...still, and working on the appartment with my fiancee's father. Do you still have the same Cell#? I also sent you an invitation to our shower on valentine's day that you should be getting pretty soon. I realize that you guys probably wont be able to make it but we made sure to send everyone that we are inviting to the wedding an invitation to the shower as well.

Habsfan1993 said...

Thanks for the insight into how the Bruins have been doing. My obvious question is, will the Bruins really make a big trade of either Thomas or Fernandez to get another player? It doesn't seem to be the Boston management's style, but then again they've never been in this position before.