BOSTON BRUINS: 28-12-1 (57 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 21-14-8 (50 PTS.)
GAME TIME: 7:30 P.M. EST.
OPPOSITION SITE: CAUSEWAY CROWD
Four games in six nights this week beginning with a tilt tonight against the Boston Bruins. Thanks to the NHL scheduling department for this scheduling such a horrific week. In addition none of these teams have a losing record, which if nothing else should give the Florida Panthers reason enough to be properly prepared for each game. Not to get ahead of ourselves, let’s take one game at a time and kick off the week by playing the Stanley Cup defending champs. Hopefully the sting and after effects of Friday night’s poor showing against the Pittsburgh Penguins has worn off, and a repeat performance won’t be seem. We can ill afford to come out as flat tonight as we did in that game.
The Bruins come to town with a 7-3-0 record in their last 1o games, and are 12-5-0 on the road. Neither of those stats are good numbers for the Panthers, who must find a way to play Florida Panther hockey, and not Boston Bruin hockey. The Bruins will play a hard nosed in your face game, and attempt to slow Florida down, minimizing the Panthers team speed. The Panthers can ill afford a match where they spend the game playing dump and chase, avoiding the physical nature of the Bruins. While the Bruins may be bigger and more physical, Florida is faster, and must take advantage of any scoring opportunities that they get.
The Bruins comfortably roll four lines most nights and each line is put together about as perfectly as you can. Scoring, scoring, checking and energy. Seven players in double digits for goals, with sophomore Tyler Seguin leading the way with 17, as he is also the leading point better for the Bruins as well with 38. He also has a gaudy plus/minus of +34, which is a reflection of their goal differential which is a snazzy +69.
The Bruins are coming off a last minute loss at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night when defenceman Jay Harrison scored the winning goal with 1:30 remaining in regulation. The win was Carolina’s third of the year against the Bruins which is quite a statement from a team that has struggled all season. Defenceman Dennis Seidenberg pointed to something specific as the reason for the loss afterwards:
“We were sloppy, we didn’t clean up in front of our net,” defencemanDennis Seidenberg said. “They had people and pucks in front of there, and Timmy couldn’t see it. We just have to do a better job of cleaning guys and pucks out of there.”
Tim Thomas took a rare loss for that game , and is a solid 11-4-0 in his last 16 games, including a 1.91 GAA and a .944 save percentage. The stingy duo of Thomas and Tuukka Rask are a primary reason for Boston’s success. Stellar goaltending, stingy defence, and balanced scoring is a recipe for winning. Let’s also not forget that they habitually out work, and out hustle most opponents every night.
The Panthers who were thoroughly outplayed and outworked the last time these two teams met, will be looking to start off the week on a positive as they head off for a three game road swing. The most important thing that the Panthers must do is get back to playing the type of hockey they were playing in October and November. The key to that is the success of the FlashMob Line, where Kris Versteeg, Flash and Stephen Weiss need to get clicking again. With the trio “pressing” and trying to do too much, they’ll need to focus on keeping things simple. Weiss hasn’t scored a goal since December 5th, and both Versteeg and Flash have cooled off as well, giving some cause to express that the line be “broken up”. A tactic that coach Kevin Dineen is probably considering, but most likely holding off on. Remember, when we were winning with more consistency, it was because of them.
With all the injured players and call ups from San Antonio, there’s already been enough line juggling. You should all be pleased that Joel Quenneville isn’t the coach as he changes lines every shift if need be. Although that has proved to be somewhat successful, it’s not what were looking for here. In addition to the top line, the secondary scoring must make a return to the score sheet. Players like Shawn Matthias, Mikael Samuelsson and Mike Santorelli are in desperate need of finding some consistency. Santorelli is the most puzzling of the three with only five goals in 35 games, he’s now where near his 20 goal pace of last season. Though he’s playing on the fourth line lately, a goal streak from him would be a welcomed sight.
* If you’re counting, the man games lost count is now up to 170 for the Panthers. Boston has lost 32.
* The Florida Panthers lead the series overall 31-27-6-5.
* The Panthers have killed 16 of the last 17 power plays spanning six games.
* Florida is 16-1-3 when scoring at least 3 goals.
* The Bruins are 10 goals shy of 19,000 in team history.
* The Bruins have scored six or more goals 11 times this season.
* Boston has yet to allow a shorthanded goal this season.
* During the month of November the Bruins were 12-0-1, not suffering a regulation loss.
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