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03-30-2004, 02:23 AM
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Some of us may be sick of playing the Bruins, but that earlier post is right. We match up best against them. The Bruins fans seem to think they'll sweep us but do they ever learn? That kind of attitude got them an ass-kicking in '02 and when Habs fans then proclaimed an easy series against the Canes we got punked in 6 as well but the last 2 games being complete emberassments.

The Bruins have improved on defense at forward and the blue line for sure. Coaching is about the same or maybe less as Sullivan has limited experience while Ftorek, though a fool, was more seasoned. Goaltending is the same too. Look, Dafoe had a good year going into that series. He tanked and then his career hasn't recovered since. Raycroft is prone to this phenomenon too (love it how the B's fans proclaim his greatness after 1 awesome year while after 1 awesome year Theodore was still the next Jim Carey, even after robbing Boston!!!??? Well, if Raycroft sucks they'll be hearing it from vengeful Hab fans).

Without Guerin, the sniper ability is replaced by Nylander and Bergeron (who, it remains to be seen, is considered a future star but he looks more like Jimmy Carson at this point, feeding off of more talented linemates; y'see Ryder has done it on his own, without the benefit of extra-special guys like Samsonov, Knuble, Murray and Thornton- who rank as better than some of our top 6 forwards). So, basically they have more lethal wingers while the Habs have two capable playmaking centres, which is one more than the B's have.

The loss of experience with Sweeney, Rivers and Brown while the younger McLaren and Girard gone hurts the blueline but is made up for by McGillis, Gonchar, Slegr and Delmore giving them some more firepower on the PP than last time and with it being healthier than Montreal's, they get the advantage there when it comes to offense. Defensively, the Habs are more capable of bearing down, playing a system and bein solid on the blueline as Boullion, Rivet, Markov, Souray and Brisebois have show capable of great play at times; within or without the playoffs (only Boullion hasn't seen playoff hockey, the others did in '02 and played very well).

In goal, Raycroft has been great and a Calder Trophy favourite but it has to come down to Theo as he is prolly more ready for this than Raycroft, who's seen AHL playoffs but nothing like this. Now, Theo wasn't so green heading into the 02 playoffs. He'd played some big games in '98 and had a 56-save game in '97 against the Devils in a triple T thriller. Games 5 and 6 of that series were his as were games 2 and 3 of the Canes series and I'd venture to say he hasn't played as great as that since. Sure, he's been great but where has Theo had that 40-save ability so far? Luckily, thanks to a real coach with a real system we haven't had to see that kind of barrage nearly as often. But in the playoffs, it may have to come down to Theodore being brilliant. A little more than he's been the last 2 years. I feel confident he can step it up and casually put on his playoff game face for a series against the Bruins which seems likely.

For our forwards since last time, there is a marked change. Only Zednik and Koivu remain and they great with Gilmour pacing Zednik and linemate Petrov to important goals. Z will be a target for the Bruins and hopefully the Habs will be ready to inforce some justice for any Bruin that tries to do the crap that McLaren did. The B's fans stood by the act claiming Zednik deserved it for yapping. And that makes it right to nearly take his head off!!? Typical Bruins rhetoric. We know Koivu and Zed are playoff warriors and Ryder has shown that ability at every level, even playing clutch last year in the AHL while dealing with nagging shoulder and rib cage injuries. Ribeiro has been awesome this year but in rough, physical play seems to back down and *****foot around. He doesn't stick to his game of quick transition and crisp passing. Kovalev is also capable of big time play, but is a bigger enigma than Ribs for sure based on recent play for the Habs and Rangers. Any other possible top 6 forward is easy to bottle up come playoff time, I'm referring to Perreault and Dagenais with the former being useful only when big faceoffs or offensive bursts are needed (other than that, a 4th line guy) and the latter being utterly useless unless he was just used in PP situations where he can get to shoot. Bulis, with his great two-way play and occasional scoring would be a much better playoff fit for a spot on the top 2 lines. But the Bruins still get the advantage for offensive forwards (as well as offensive d-men to boot).

Now, as for toughness and defensive forwards, we can match them step for step. Dowd, Ward (in the AHL last year), Langdon and Sundstrom have been dependable playoff performers for other teams while Begin's fiery play is easily useful in the playoffs. Juneau and Dackell can be used when the series flow is less physical as those two are as soft as they come. We can match them in that regard.
With the offensive d-men, we can rely on Markov, sometimes Boullion and Brisebois/Souray but their health concerns throw the PP quarterbacking into jeopardy. Since Souray's injury, I'm sure the PP numbers must've slipped a little. When he came back, his shot wasn't as hard or as accurate and he wasn't moving quickly enough to get into scoring areas from the point.

All in all, it should be interesting no matter who we play but we stack up best against the Bruins; a team we seem to be able to exploit weaknesses in. Remember, anything can happen. Just because the Bruins have looked so impressive this year doesn't mean it will be a give-in they win. Hell, everyone seemed to think that was the case 2 years ago. They are also very wide open in OT which can't hurt our chances knowing our defense is able to handle it (with less OT losses than the Bruins).

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