Bruins Start First Back to Back With a Trip to Carolina
Boston Bruins (3-0-1) at Carolina Hurricanes (2-2-0)
As someone who grew up in Connecticut, I would not be a true Hartford Whalers' fan if I didn't start this preview by clarifying the following: THE CAROLINA HURRICANES ARE NOT THE HARTFORD WHALERS! And I don't know any former Whalers' fans who feel that they are...if I had a penny for every time someone asked me if I'm a Canes' fan...well I'd have a lot of pennies to throw at those people.
Okay, now on to this horror show. Hopefully a lot of therapy and medication have helped the Bruins and their fans to forget the atrocious four meetings with the Hurricanes last season. Without reliving the nightmare, the Canes swept the Bruins, though if you're a glutton for punishment please check out my recap from one of those meetings last year. Boston is on a roll right now, and with a win or overtime appearance tonight, can have the first five-game point streak since the 1990-91 season. The Canes are coming off a home-and-home beat down of Buffalo and knowing that they dominated Boston last year, will enter tonight's battle with confidence and assurance.
The Good News
The Bruins enter tonight's game top of their division and third in the East, just a hair behind New Jersey (Tuesday night's opponent). Tuukka Rask has been awesome between the pipes with .925 save percentage and 1.96 goals against so far this season. Dougie Hamilton has reminded Boston fans why "Thank You Kessel" will go down as one of the most beloved fan chants of all time and despite Adam McQuaid being absent from the roster tonight (he didn't make the trip to Carolina after missing practice Sunday for personal reasons, he should be back Tuesday), Aaron Johnson teaming up with Andrew Ference, is nothing to be nervous about. Hopefully the Bruins Merlot line (Paille, Campbell, Thornton) will continue the energy and scoring force they started on Friday. Honestly, the best news for the team is that they are the Boston Bruins...as long as they play sixty minutes of hockey (which has been a bit of an issue so far) they have the talent to win this game.
The Bad News
As I mentioned previously, the Hurricanes know they have the B's number and they zamboni'd the ice with Buffalo twice last week, confidence goes a long way and the Canes know they are in the B's heads. Look for red hot Jeff Skinner to give Boston's defense some trouble as well as the Staal brothers who cover Carolina's first two lines...Eric Staal loves to taunt the Bruins and he does not go away. This game is going to be a mental challenge for the Black and Gold, just as much as a physical one. The Canes love to rush the net and will score if given an opportunity, the Bruins defense needs to eliminate all opportunities and not make positional mistakes. Carolina is hardly a rubix cube of offense, but if the Bruins don't play the first twenty minutes, there may be irreversible damage before the Bruins we know and love actually show up.
I hate to put this in "The Bad News" but until I'm proven otherwise it goes here...Coach Claude Julien mentioned that due to the back-to-back games this week Anton Khudobin will get the start either tonight or tomorrow against last year's Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils. In all fairness I know the kid needs to get into the mix, but I still am on the fence when it comes to Anton. I'm counting the days (years) until Malcolm Subban packs the Uhaul and moves to the North End. For their part, the Bruins skaters seem to be very supportive, but what are they suppose to say, "Oh man, he's no Tuukka"...we'll see how they really feel when we see this roster play in front of Boston's #2 tendie.
Cam Ward will be in net for Carolina in this first of three meetings for the two clubs. Hate to have a "case of the Mondays" but I'm calling Canes over Bruins by two. Fingers crossed, the Bruins play sixty minutes, strong defense, hold the line and wipe that smug smile off Eric Staal's face.
Where To Find It
PCN Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
TV: NESN 7 pm
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
Where To Find Me
And remember keep you heads up and your sticks down...