Well, it had to come sooner or later, the Bruins finally return to the TD Banknorth Garden tonight. The Bruins are the last team to play a home game, as it is far more important for the city of Boston to see elephants in the city (gasp!), then professional sports. Realistically, neither of these things are important, but I have to imagine the Bruins bring in more money than the circus. The game should be pretty raucous tonight as the Garden is sold out, as it always is when Hockey Jesus and the Pittsburgh Penguins come into town. Some of the best games I have seen over the past couple years have been against the Penguins and I have a feeling tonight will be no exception. Gabe’s provided you with a pretty solid video preview and I’m going to give you the best breakdown I can this morning without knowing lines, netminders, or healthy scratches, but it doesn’t matter because Hockey Jesus already knows the out come.
The Bruins are coming off their most complete game, a 4-2 win in Ottawa with Manny Fernandez in net. I heard once Manny Fernandez ate a penguin, but we will see Tim Thomas between the pipes tonight. I know its early in the season, but I think this is a crucial game for both teams. From the get-go it looks like the Northeast division is going to be an absolute dog fight and won’t be decided until the final day of the season. The Bruins showed they could hang with Montreal, and the Senators looked flat against the Bruins, but they have already beaten the Pens, and Buffalo appears to be better than I expected. Clearly, the Pens aren’t in the division, but the Bruins can’t fall behind in the standings early. The Pens got off to a slow start, but routed the Toronto Maple Leafs the other night and Hockey Jesus now seems to be in gear. In the next ten days the Pens get plenty of travel visiting the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, and up start Phoenix Coyotes, I can tell you right now they don’t want to drop a game in Boston before all that.
Thankfully, I have taken long enough to write this that Fluto Shinzawa at the Boston Globe could post the morning skate lines. P.J. Axelsson didn’t skate this morning, at the moment we are still at undisclosed injury. Hub Hockey has the wild rumor of the day that Axelsson could be returning home to Sweden. Who knows if this is true or not, but I would like to see Axelsson stick around for the end of the year. We have plenty of great young talent that needs playing time, but I think some of the young guys who are playing right now could benefit being around Axelsson for the rest of the year. I like the move to return to pairing Dennis Wideman with Zdeno Chara. Wideman isn’t the most physical presence out there, but also has great offensive prowess, and the Bruins are trying to get the defense in on the rush. You may see Chara staying home a little more and letting Wideman join the rush. I like the other line combinations, but am a little nervous about how the are going to shape up against what lines the Pens roll. According to the Penguins official site, the projected lines, have the Dupuis-Crosby-Malkin still intact. I don’t think the Bruins should change their lines to try and match, because well with Crosby and Malkin thats just not possible, but I am a little leery of the Lucic-Savard-Ryder line out there against them.
The linchpin to this game for me is Milan Lucic. Crosby and Malkin don’t need a lot of ice to operate, but the Bruins have to take away as much ice as the can. Everyone has to throw the body tonight and it all has to start with Lucic having a huge first shift. If he can come out and set the tone, hopefully Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka, and David Krejci will follow suit. Lucic got the goal monkey off his back in Ottawa, and if he doesn’t have a huge impact within the first five minutes look for him to punch the shit out of Eric Godard (as a sheer hockey fan, I hope to fucking god this fight happens, as it will be brutal).
As the Penguins official site points out Marc Savard has torched the Penguins for 38 points in 28 games, and don’t expect tonight to be any different. I’m sure Michael “Bleach” Ryder will be playing with something to prove in his first night at the Garden, and no one better to feed him the puck than the assist machine, Marc Savard. Again, Lucic needs to make room and crash the net hard if he wants to prove he belongs on that first line with Savard and Ryder.
The Bruins are going to take this game on sheer will. Patrice Bergeron hasn’t played a regular season game in the Garden since his injury, and we he gets introduced the Garden is going to be electric. Bergeron is already back to his old form and be prepared for a massive game from him. It may not show on the scoreboard, but he will own the ice tonight.
Believe it or not a few people out there actually root for the Pittsburgh Penguins, some of them may even preview the game:
- [The Pensblog] Regardless of your feelings about the Pens, this blog is worth reading, or at least looking at for their hysterical photoshop work. Right now they don’t have a preview up at the moment, but they always take care of in game updates, so be sure to check in.
- [Going Five Hole] We are big fans of Sir Leahy around here and he kind of likes the Penguins or something. He doesn’t use Going Five Hole to be a homer for the Pens, but it’s enough of an excuse to link to him.
- [The Flower Shop] Marc-Andre Fleury not playing tonight? Last time, I thought that was a good thing and then the Bruins got burned by Conkblock.
- [The Wicked Wrister] The Bruins top two lines are getting a lot of praise, as well they should, its just weird to hear it.
There are a lot of great Pens blogs out there, but its early on in the day and not everyone has previews up. I’m heading to the Garden fairly early, but I’ll give a quick check before I head out if there is anything else Pens related you all need to know.
As I said in the Sens recap, I’ll be down around Causeway street around 4, which means I’m leaving New Hampshire around 3, if anyone wants to meet up for a beer before the game let me know, but try to do it before 3 or else The Jumbotron will just be another two jerks in Bruins jerseys. I’ll leave you with great videos of the last game played in the Garden:
Let’s Go Bruins!