Well, it's time. On Monday, the Big Bad Bruins take to the ice in the PNC Arena.
As we all know, last year the Hurricanes swept the season series against Boston for the first time since the Whalers joined the NHL. The embarrassing 4 straight losses (including extended 5 on 3's, turtleing and the entire starting lineup of the Bruins visiting the penalty box) has renewed the Carolina-Boston rivalry, with many HF Boston fans looking forward to showing the Hurricanes whats what.
The Hurricanes, after two horrible losses to two very mediocre teams, have bounced back with convincing wins over the one line Buffalo Sabres (but what a line!). They also lead the League in shots for, and are slightly below average in shots against: both shocking stats for this team.
The Bruins are 3-1, with one win against the unstoppable Rangers and 2 wins against the mediocre Jets and Islanders.
This game will be a test for both teams as they seek to establish both their dominance of the Eastern conference and of each other. I will personally be attending with a "Make It 5!" sign in Section 335.
Players to Watch: Tim Thomas
After winning the Stanley Cup and the Vezina in one of the most dominant seasons of any goaltender ever, Tim Thomas followed this up by proclaiming that the apocalypse was nigh, and proceeded to hide in his personal safety bunker somewhere.
He won't actually be playing, but expect many snide comments about this eccentric player once things go south.
Players to Watch: Skinner
Jeff Skinner has 4 goals in the last 3 games, and has shown the world the NHL's newest, deadliest backhand. Unfortunately, he has also shown continued immaturity, cursing at a ref after a call that generally goes the other way.
IIRC, the Bruins were among the first to realize that to get to 53, you need to play a physical brand of hockey and restrict his space whenever he is on the ice. For Skinner to be effective, he is going to have to battle likely much more than he faced on Friday. He needs to remain cool and fight through it. In addition, Skinner needs to learn to use his linemates more effectively. I personally refuse to begrudge anyone who is unwilling to pass the puck to LaRose or Dwyer, but Staal has shown flairs of offensive talent, particularly in maintaining possession while on the attack. Instead of running out of space and turning the puck over, he needs to pass it off and get J. Staal his first goal.
Players to Watch: The Top Line
Our top line of E. Staal, Semin and Tlusty, while has continued to look great, is still scoring on a basis of individuality rather than as a line (E. Staal's breakaway, E. Staal's feed from Pitkanen, Semin doing it himself). In this game, we need tangible results rather than the Pyrrhic saying "It's ok, you look sexier!'.
Having said that, Staal and Semin are historically good against Boston, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. If there is any time for them to break out as a unit, it is now.
Players to watch: Dougie Hamilton
A part of the Kessel trade, Dougie Hamilton had his first multi point NHL night against the Islanders. He has 3 points, and is tied with Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Gregory Campbell in leading the Bruins in scoring.
I'll use this make a point: unlike the Hurricanes, who have won the last two games on the backs of their best players (the Staal bros., Semin and Skinner), the Bruins feature a hammering balanced attack (by balancing a tack hammers on their heads during practice). Every player on their forward core is able to score, and while they don't have any forwards that can match the talent of Semin, the skating of Skinner or the combination of size and speed in E. Staal, every one of them is able to chip in on any given night provided other forwards fail to step up. This leads to:
Game Keys: Match ups:
While playing the Sabres, the Hurricanes could send out their 3rd and 4th lines, and while they did next to nothing, rely on the Sabres bottom 6 to also do next to nothing. No such allowance shall be made against the Bruins, and if we want the game to be competitive, our 3rd and 4th lines must step it up.
Forecheck: One of the blessings that J. Staal and (surprisingly!) Semin have brought to each of our top 2 lines is a large body with speed. In other words, they have made each line especially effective on the forecheck, and it has shown. The Bruins, however, boast size and speed that can have a hand in neutralizing what has been a great boon so far this season. We either need to focus on our transition game or step it up further than we have seen.
Goaltending: Tuuka Rask has been excellent in the last 4 games. We need the same from Cam Ward. Goes without saying, but I need a shower and I also want to make the game keys nice and 3.
Heh, just how many musicians do we have in this place anyway?
Tuba and Euphonium player myself. Play with the Duke Wind Symphony and Duke Medicine Orchestra.
I'm a violinist and my wife's a saxophonist. I last played with the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra. I quit playing after my freshman year mainly because I got involved in another organization that met at the same time USCSO rehearsed and the conductor was a total dick - sprung a concert in Hartsville, SC (hometown of Leeza Gibbons) on us at the fairly last minute...the week we had midterms. I had to beg my Literature and Psychoanalysis professor to let me do the midterm as a "take home" and he very reluctantly agreed. The conductor also got off on making other people miserable - made a flautist cry in rehearsal one time and had a fairly high contempt for non-music majors.
Still I did get to play some pretty awesome music that year (Carmina Burana, Carmen, a good bit of Copland) and do find myself missing it sometimes. I've been giving thought to brushing up and trying out for RTOOT, UNC's Symphony Orchestra, or maybe Raleigh Civic.
My wife, meanwhile played for Wake Forest's marching and pep bands, but she ended up quitting before her senior year. The first time I took her to a USC football game she was a little jealous about how big their marching band was and wished Wake's band had been able to do "cool and complex" formations. *shrug* the most complex I got in orchestra was doing strolling strings gigs in high school.
End Times Tim poking his head out of his spider hole made my Saturday brighter.
I also happened to see that about the same time I came across an article that Tom Brady's new $20M mansion in Cali has a moat.
Canes and Bruins provided us with the best hockey we saw all of last season, IMO. This series brought out the best in our guys, Ward especially. Rask went 0-2 and Thomas went 0-2, with Cam winning all four contests. Cam was solid, stopping 139 of 144 shots for a 1.25 GAA and .965 SV%.
Offensively we shined as well. Pitkanen had 4 points in only 2 games against the Bruins, and Staal notched three goals in the series. Tim Brent was a pleasing +5 with three assists over those four games.
The 10/18/11 game was especially notable for standing room only seating in the Bruins penalty box in a game that had many moments of near-melee status. Brett Sutter putting Corvo hard into the boards, Skinner's single-leg takedown of Ference, Ward jawing with Chara, and so on.
Personally my favorite memory (outside of the 4-0 record) was Tuukka Rask skating all the way to Cam's end during the 10/18 game to have words, and Ward visibly laughing at him, and cocking his head to try to hear him. The Canes STH event was later that same week, and my wife asked Ward what Rask was saying. He laughed and said he was laughing at him because he couldn't understand a word the Finnish player was saying.
Go Canes. I enjoy winning these games against Boston probably even more than the games against Buffalo and NJ.