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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good News Bad News

A point in the home opener but a shootout loss. Oh well. The Bruins played pretty well and Thomas came up with big saves several times, but the Pens goalie played a great game and could only be beaten once, by Kessel. Bergeron continues to get great chances but he has been snakebitten. My guess is that when one does go in, the dam breaks and he gets a bunch. The Bruins played very solidily all game, with every line looking good in spots, but no domination. But remember that was against a Stanley Cup finalist, minus Mr. Hossa of course, but still a potent team. Their injury to Gonchar takes a lot off the top though. People are dumping on Wheeler, who might have set folks' expectations too high by scoring in the first game. Brick said it right though: in the third period he praised that line for playing a good shift and getting the shift's final line change in the Pen's zone, setting up the first line for a good shift (they muffed it, but...). I remember Steve Hienze when he was a third liner saying to me "My job was not to hurt the team." This was just before he started scoring a ton, and we were talking about how his role had changed. My point is that for a rookie like Wheeler, his job #1 is to skate his shift and get acclimated to the NHL without hurting the team. He is not expected to carry the team like a Crosby was, and he is not expected to be a one-man wrecking crew like Lucic was last year. So I am willing to wait, and by all appearances, so is Claude Julien.

Buffalo next, and I assume we will see Manny, continuing the rotation. That puts Thomas in against Toronto, and Manny against Atlanta. That's fine with me.

Another guy who gets crap is Shane Hnidy, but I thought he played just fine last night. In fact the entire defense had a good defensive night - no huge costly gaffes. The attack was very good, lots of chances, just that Sabourin played very well in the Pens net. Some weak work on the Bruins shootout though.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not So Good

A 4-3 loss to the Wild, and the best you can say is that the team kept playing and made it interesting in the 3rd period. Also positives about Marc Savard, with 3 goals in 2 games. Another good sign is that Savard and Ryder seem to have some synergy, and Ryder contributed in a way not entirely expected - he sent the two passes that Savard scored on, rather than the other way around. My thought is that the bigger Savard is a threat to score himself, the more effective his passes will be. In the old days, Adam Oates was the best passer in the NHL, but he didn't shoot nearly enough and teams played him to pass. I don't think Savard is quite the passer Oates was, but it is close, and if Savard can also be a threat to score, that bodes well for the Bruins.

Not so good - the goaltending and defense. Fernandez made the Greater St. Paul area quite happy, but no one in Bruins gear, with two awful goals allowed, and the other two marginally better. The only thing that absolves him in any way is that the defense was not so good either. But the fact remains that the Bruins allowed only 26 shots - far fewer than Tim Thomas faced against the Avs, and still came up short. And after the game, the initial story quoted MF as calling himself 'courageous' for playing in the third and not allowing another goal! He faced down every one of those five shots! Does that imply that his natural inclination was to cower in the dressing room for the third period?
Turns out it was a bit of a misquote, as later stories added a parenthetically 'courageuous (for the team)' to clarify or sanitize his remark; we will never know which.

The trade of Andrew Alberts is a bit of a surprise, but not totally because he was not in the line up after having a spotty pre-season (mistake prone in the exhibitions). It is ironic that he was traded to the team that put him out for the season with a concussion last season, but the Flyers were hurtin' and Alberts in their system could be effective if paired up correctly.

The injury to Chuckie K sucks. Is he brittle or unlucky? Hard to say, but he was injured coming from Calgary, and broke a bone last season, and then another one this season. Not is not a good trend. Fortunately the Bruins have a bunch of young guys that should get a cup of Joe with the club while Kobie is out. It doesn't sound like a long term injury but time will tell.

The next game is in Montreal against the hated ones. It will be interesting to see how the lineup looks in goal and on defense, with Alberts traded away to a desperate Philly (2 injured d-men). Also with Kobesew out (fractured ankle) whether the Bruins call up Sobotka or drop a second shoe with a trade now that they have some cap room.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Good Start

While the defensive results might have been dicey, it was great to see the Bruins score five goals in their 5-4 away opener win vs Colorado. A road start is tough (last seasons the Bruins played in a handful of other team's first home games and were bruised by it) but the Bruins hung in there. I could not have wished for better starts from Ryder, Wheeler, Krejci, and Kessel, at least on the scoreboard, and Lucic looked better, picking up an assist and playing on a tough and solid 4rth line.

Not so spiffy was the Bruins defense. Ward worked hard but he was off position too much. Ference not a lot better. Hnidy also tries hard and makes the most of marginal talent. Chara wasn't impressive (a stinky -3 despite his assist), Wideman was OK, as was Stuart. Thomas faced way too many shots again, but he was up for the challenge and came up big in the last seconds against Sakic. Tim was classic Thomas, making some huge stops but you will never see the guy in a goalie training video.

I was overjoyed to see Bergeron playing again, but I felt he was a little restrained on the physical contact. That does not bother me much, because the last thing I want to see is another injury. Bruins have enough beef out there so that Patrice can work on the finesse. I thought Marco Sturm was the invisible man, and Kobesew wasn't exactly Mr. Everywhere either. Yet Chuckie ends up with two points, as did Patrice. Ryder was on the ice for two Avs goals, but he was also on for two Bruin's goals including his own. So that is a wash, even if he ended up -1.

Friday night, no Bruins game, but it is centre ice preview night, so I get to watch a bunch of other teams. Montreal vs Buffalo and a distinct lack of diving - a surprise. But all's well that ends well - Montreal lost in a shootout. Rangers look very strong, Lundquist very sharp. Yet Chicago tied it up in the first. Florida was up 2-0 on the Canes and squandered that. Atlanta was 1-0 vs Washington early, faltered, but then chased Theodore out of the Capitals net and scored another 3 on his backup. The Isles and Devils were 1-1 but NJ scored the winner in the third. I will be heading back to watch some more free hockey later.

So it was a great start, and we will see if CJ starts Manny against his old team the Wild in the next game. Five is nice, but this Bruins team has to prove they can score consistently if they want to make the playoffs. It looks to me like a lot of teams have improved. Toronto under Ron Wilson looked very decent against Detroit. I have to say that they played much better without Sundin; I think they previously got used to sitting back and letting Mats do it all, and that became a set of diminishing returns as he aged. He was a great player, but he had become just good, and I think the younger guys deferred too much to him and Tucker. Well both of them are gone, and my guess is the Leafs will actually be stronger for it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Game on!

This is it - the start of the regular season, and does it get any better?
I am jazzed to see the Bruins play tonight, and waiting until 10pm will be torture.
I am cruising the net at lunch to find out who is starting and what the lineup looks like, and who is on the Avs, and all that.
I was sad to see Sobotka sent back to Providence, but I was heartened that he scored in the AHL opener against the Lowell Devils, so he is rising to the challenge and I am sure he will be back in Boston soon.
I was also disappointed to see Peter Schaeffer essentially released, because I was hoping the guy would step up early the way he did at the end of the season. But apparently not enough to keep him around, unless the demotion was a motivation ploy. But he should not need that kind of prodding, so my guess is that the staff just did not see the fire needed to take the next step (like toward the net!).
I am bound to have more to say later, so I will stop now and resume after work.

The Other Mattbnh