Who: Boston Bruins (2-0-0)
When: Tonight, 7:00PM EST
The Dangermen: The Bruins only have a pair of games under their belt but recent history can effectively tell us who these guys are.
Granted, Jaromir Jagr and Tyler Seguin are gone but there is still a ton of talent among the forward ranks of the Bruins. It doesn’t begin or end with one specific player because, while the Bruins don’t have a superstar forward, this is a solid group from top to bottom.
Perhaps the leader of the forwards, Patrice Bergeron is their go-to guy because he does everything well. He wins faceoffs, he plays defense, and he scores. There’s a reason he’s got a Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward as well as a few nominations to go along with it. If the Bruins need a goal, a faceoff win, or someone to shut the door defensively, Bergeron is their man.
Their current points leader is none other than the big, bruising Milan Lucic. A power forward in every sense of the word, Looch is incredibly difficult to handle when he’s rolling. With his size and toughness, he gets himself to the net and makes things happen in front. He won’t score many pretty goals but that’s not the nature of his game.
Then there’s the Bruins’ leading scorer last year and one of the most hated players in the entire NHL. Brad Marchand might not have a single fan outside of Beantown, but pretty much everyone cheering for the B’s has to love his game. An agitator in every sense of the word, Marchand gets under the skin of just about everyone. Rat-like features aside, he’s a real talent and someone who brings his A-game on a nightly basis.
We’ve gotten this far into their forwards preview and are just now mentioning that they also have Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson in their lineup? Yikes. Iggy isn’t the same elite power forward of old, but in a situation like this, he can do some real damage on the score sheet. Eriksson, meanwhile, has only been one of the quietly most consistent scorers in the game during his time in Dallas. Since 2008-09, his lowest goal total was 26 and he’s consistently been a 71-73 point scorer. Put him in a talent-laden lineup like this and big things could be on the horizon.
The B’s fill out their bottom six with quality two-way players like Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, and Dan Paille. They are talented, they are deep, and they are experienced.
The Defenders: You can’t talk about the Bruins defense without starting with the captain. Zdeno Chara is either one of the best defensemen in the game or just a really tall guy on skates depending on who you ask. Given the fact that he’s a six-time NHL All-Star, has a pair of Norris Trophy nominations, and a Norris Trophy win, we’ll go with the former. He’s massive, he’s talented, and he can shut down the best of the best even at 36-years-old. Oh, and try to stay out of the way of that slap shot.
Joining him is the biggest wild card on the defense, a surprise playoff performer: Torey Krug. Always considered a very talented player, Krug has dealt with the stigma of being a 5’9” defenseman. He doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff and shows the heart and willingness to do what he can to help the team. He’s really shone so far with his skating and ability to lead a rush. He’ll be a bit protected in this Bruins lineup and that could be the boost he needs to become a star.
Dougie Hamilton is back for year two in Boston as well. The ninth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and the other part of the Phil Kessel trade, Hamilton had himself a solid rookie season amid mounds of hype. He’s still young and growing but he has a mountain of talent and has the makings of a top-pairing defenseman. With a season under his belt, this could be a breakout season for Hamilton.
Rounding out the Bruins defensive corps are solid, physical options. Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk throw the wood around and aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone. Boychuk also possesses a huge shot from the point but needs to work on getting it to find the net a little more often. There’s also the less physical, consistently solid Dennis Seidenberg, a veteran presence on a pretty young blueline.
This group is smart, balanced, and physical. They’re capable of shutting anyone down on any night and can do some damage at the other end of the ice.
Puck Stoppers Inc.: With all due respect to Anton Khudobin, who had a solid season last year as the backup, this group begins and ends with Tuukka Rask.
Rask got the shiny new eight-year deal in the offseason to be “The Man” for the Bruins and he’s got the track record and the talent to be just that. He’s off to a great start so far, having won both games and allowing just two goals total.
He’s one of the best in the game in terms of butterfly goaltenders, taking away the bottom of the crease with quick, controlled movements. He’s also a big guy (6’3”) and takes up large portions of the net, giving shooters very little to look at in the way of a shooting target.
Between Rask and the defense, the Bruins will prove to be the toughest test for the Avalanche offense so far.
How the Avs match up: It’s still early in the season, but the Avalanche possess a deep, explosive group of forwards that hasn’t even seen the best of their top two units despite starting the season 3-0. Against an elite team like this, they’ll all need to be at their best for the Avs to walk away with the win.
Defensively is where things could get sketchy for the Avs. This group is young, inexperienced, and not on the talent level of most defensive units in the league. Against a deep, experienced, talented group like the Bruins possess, we could see the first big breakdown for this defense. It’ll be a sign of just where this group is depending on how they perform against the Bruins.
Key Matchup: Avs defense vs the deep Bruins forward corps.
Cower in fear if: The Bruins defense is keep the action to the outside, limiting the amount of good chances Rask has to face.
The Bruins forwards are maintaining possession and pressure in the Avs’ zone.
Rask shuts ‘em down.
Laugh maniacally if:
Varlamov plays his nards off. (this may just stay here forever and ever) Giguere is starting so nevermind that.
The defense is keeping the Bruins forwards to the perimeter and clearing chances in front.
The forwards are flying around everywhere as they have been, creating consistent pressure.
Silly predictions: This is the first game the defense looks truly bad; Duchene has his worst game of the year against Chara; the second line is the star of the offense tonight, creating the most pressure and chances;
Varly matches Rask see previous Giggy note.
Final: 3-2 Bruins
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