Bruins Visit the Manitoba Tundra to Face Slumping Jets
Boston Bruins (8-2-2) at
Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg Jets (5-7-1)
Happy Hockey Day in America! I hope everyone is enjoying a great day of hockey either at the rink, or on a pond, or watching coverage on NBC (a network who while in Boston this Friday mentioned every Boston sports team except the Bruins #epicfail). So being a great American team the Bruins are visiting their old buddy Mark Stuart in the great Canadian tundra of Winnipeg!
Its difficult to say which Boston Bruins we will get today. This is a team that we all know is capable of amazing defense and aggression, of putting big numbers up on the board, however they seem to show up sporadically and never for a full sixty minutes of hockey. Up until their loss, Friday, against Buffalo they had been a strong third period team, but we all saw the very opposite of that as they played strong in the first forty minutes only to give the game away in the final twenty.
It is one thing to watch a team that has holes in key positions and justify their lackadaisical play, but its another to watch a team and know there are no excuses. What causes the Bruins to play twenty minutes here and forty minutes there, we may never know and actually I don't think we should care. In a shortened season, every point counts and there are teams, like the Blackhawks, who want to win and are playing sixty minutes. We're thirteen games in and the excuses that some guys did not play during the lockout or some guys were use to the European style won't cut it anymore. There are too many guys in the league who played in Europe or stayed home that are lighting up for the B's to continue singing that song.
The Good News
The Jets have been struggling, only winning two of their last eight games. They are ranked 19th in the NHL in scoring and 25th in defense and despite a pretty solid power play, 12th in the league, the Bruins' penalty kill is very strong so that shouldn't be a problem should the B's get themselves into some hot water.
Unfortunately, Milan Lucic did not make the trip to Winnipeg and stayed home in Boston due to personal reasons. We at The Checking Line send the Lucic's our best and hope everything is alright, let's not forget these guys are human and have families just like you and me. I'm mentioning this under "Good News" because even without the first line enforcer, the Bruins look to be in great shape. This team has depth which has preserved it good record so far this season despite some minor absences. Rich Perverley practiced with David Krejci and Nathan Horton on the first line today, Pevs stepped in on the first line during the Cup run after Horty went down with a concussion, so this combination should run rather smoothly. The second line remains the same, Dan Paille practiced with Chris Kelly and Chris Bourque on the third line and Jay Pandolfo stepped in on the Merlot line.
Once again, even without Lucic, there are no big holes here and no excuses not to dominate an offensively weak Jets team, even on the road.
Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg's point leader is currently day to day after leaving the game Friday against the Penguins. He took a brutal check and has an undisclosed injury, most likely will not be making a start for the Jets.
The Bad News
Lets just get this out of the way...the Bruins Power Play. Grattis to the Bruins for cracking double digits on their PP percentage with a whopping 11%, giving them a 29th ranking in the NHL. That is just disgusting. They have only scored five times out of forty-five opportunities so far this season.
The Bruins defense has also been loose. Andrew Ference is not playing like a guy who doesn't want to transfer his kids to a different school, but if he doesn't start playing some solid defense the Bruins are not likely to resign their 34 year old alternate captain. He is a prime example of how not to play in a contract year.
Even Zdeno Chara has been allowing easy turnovers and losing the puck. Though all skaters in Black and Gold have been soft in the neutral zone as of late and getting out skated by opponents. February will be a tough month for the Bruins, who only have one more home game before March. Tonight is game three of a so far winless five game road trip, fatigue will kick in, if it hasn't already and we're talking trips to Buffalo, Winnipeg, Florida, that's some serious travel.
The key to tonight's game for the Bruins will be playing sixty minutes of hockey, there is never, ever, ever any excuse to not play three full periods of hockey and there is no way to win in the playoffs if you don't. There is always a team that will want it more and be willing to put in that effort (can you tell I'm the daughter of a coach yet?). Control in the neutral zone as well as solid defense can bring back the Bruins that Boston fans are used to cheering for.
I'll give it to the Bruins tonight...by two.
Where To Find It
MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba 6:00 pm
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
Where To Find Me