Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bruins Head Into The Final Week of the Season

What a week of ups and downs for the Bruins.  On Monday they started out with a pretty poor showing against the Buffalo Sabres.  This saw Tim Thomas getting pulled midway through the second after Buffalo scored their third goal of the night.  Not all the blame can be placed on Tim’s shoulders though, the defense fell apart on more then a few occasions and two out of the three goals even deflected off Dennis Wideman and past Thomas.  Tuesday they traveled to “The Rock” in New Jersey to face the Devils.  The Bruins seemed much more focused and held the Atlantic Division leaders scoreless for the entire sixty minutes.  Then with 18.3 seconds left in overtime Patrice Bergeron picked up Mark Stuart’s rebound and put it past Martin Brodeur for the win, keeping them within the top 8 in the East.  Back home in the Garden on Thursday against the Florida Panthers.  What a homecoming Florida, and former Boston College, goalie Scott Clemmensen had.  He recorded his first shutout in one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever watched.  It seemed like the Bruins had more scoring chances in that one game then they’ve had all year.  But not a single one could find the back of the net.  Which brings us to last night in Toronto… all week everyone’s been talking about home all of these games in the home stretch of the regular season are “must wins” for the Bruins, but that statement was so important going into Saturday.  Forget about the Toronto draft picks the B’s have, forget about the Divisional rivalry, and forget about the Phil Kessel nonsense.  The only thing that any of them needed to be thinking about was the simple math.  There are five teams in the Eastern Conference looking to fill the bottom three spots in the Playoffs.  Obviously two teams are going home unhappy in less then a week.  So when Colton Orr scored the first goal of the game, I don’t think I was the only one that thought back to the recent game against the Panthers and said, “Not again.”  But about half way through the second Miroslav Satan cleaned the slate by knocking home a feed from David Krejci.  That would be the way it stayed until 3:25 into overtime when Satan once again played the role of “Johnny on the Spot” by redirecting in a Zdeno Chara shot from the point giving the Bruins two huge points in the very crowded standings.

So here’s how the bottom of the Eastern Conference breaks down heading into the final week of the season...

    6th – Montreal Canadiens (86 points)
    7th – Boston Bruins (84 points)
    8th – Philadelphia Flyers (82 points)
    9th – New York Rangers (82 points)
    10th Atlanta Thrashers (81 points)

Everyone is one win away from some form of movement.  The Flyers have the Detroit Red Wings Easter Sunday afternoon on NBC and the Bruins travel to Washington to play Alexander Ovechkin and the league leading Capitals on Monday night.  The rest of them have games on Tuesday.

The Bruins main focus needs to be on a tight defense against the Capitals.  It’s no secret that the Bruins have some serious scoring issues and Washington has one of the leagues scoring leaders in Ovechkin.  The object needs to be shutting down Washington’s offense, and then throw some big bodies in front of their goalie when the B’s are in the offensive zone, and look for the redirects.

OTHER NOTES:
Dennis Seidenberg suffered a cut on his left wrist in the first period of the Toronto game and didn’t return.  Coach Julien said, in the post game interview, that Dennis was ok and would travel with the team to Washington.

Mark Stuart was flown back to Boston Saturday afternoon after it was discovered that he had cellulitis in his hand.  A quick Google search came back as, a skin infection caused by bacteria that can spread to the blood or lymph nodes and can become deadly if not treated immediately with antibiotics.  No word on how long he’ll be out.  Andrew Bodnarchuk was brought up from Providence on an emergency basis.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Timmy vs. Tuukka: It Could Be A Lot Worse

The debate has been going on for pretty much the entire season… Who should be the #1 goalie for the Boston Bruins?  Much like the recent Tonight Show war between Team Conan & Team Jay, the fans here in Boston have been divided.  But the camps aren’t broken up as you might think, one side pulling for Tim Thomas and the other campaigning for Tuukka Rask.  Instead they’ve been split into Tim Thomas Lovers & Tim Thomas Haters, with everybody seeming to agree that Tuukka is a great net minder that will be a huge part to the future success of the Bruins.

I made a post on Twitter (@mikewendt) during the 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres… “Tim Thomas... Not as horrible as the TT-haters make him out to be, but not as great this year as the TT-lovers are preaching either.”

If you’re reading this and you’re in the Thomas-Lovers camp, you need to relax a bit.  Timmy isn’t a godlike goalie that can do no wrong, so stop trying to sell him as such.  If you’re on the Thomas-Haters side of the fence, lighten up.  He’s not that horrible in net, and you don’t have to think too far back in Bruins history to be able to say “it could be a whole lot worse.”

Tim is a good goalie, especially when the team in front of him can score.  Last season he had a career year, but I believe a much better representation of his actual play would be the 2007-08 season.  He is a streaky goalie that plays with a ton of emotion and sometimes that emotion can get the best of him (example: the Flyers lone goal at the Winter Classic).  On the flip side you have Tuukka who seems to have much better control over his emotions (milk crate incident aside) and plays a much calmer style of hockey.  Unlike Tim’s flopping, rolling, diving style that usually has me white knuckling my beer and screaming at the TV Tuukka doesn’t seem to inspire such a stress filled viewing experience.  He stays up, holds his positions, uses his large frame to fill up the maximum amount of space in the net, and will usually try to direct the rebounds off to the side or into the corners.  I can’t count how many times my heart has skipped a beat when a juicy rebound, as Jack Edwards would say, pops off Thomas’s pads and lands right in the slot for someone to smack home.

But like I said, Timmy is a good goalie.  How many of you cringed last year when you heard the Manny Fernandez was getting a start?  Thomas was the only guy anyone wanted to see between the pipes.  But because this season didn’t go as everyone thought it would it seems like a portion of the fan base has labeled Thomas the fall guy.  Of course one of the big points that are brought up is the size of his contract, especially when he’s going through a rough patch and people see him on the bench as basically a $5M backup goalie.

I think though for the near future that is the reality that the fans are going to have to live with.  Tim’s cage has been rattled a bit too much and the Bruins need to go with Rask from here on out, in my opinion.  With the team in a fight for one of the bottom three playoff spots in the East with the Canadiens, Flyers, Thrashers, and Rangers every win is crucial to how this season ends up.  They have a good chance of finishing in 6th place if they can all keep their heads in the game and play the way they have in the past week against the Flames, Thrashers, and Rangers.  However if they let themselves slip as they did in the Buffalo game then they could find themselves in 10th and hitting the links in less than two weeks.