Thursday, November 16, 2006

Leafs v. Bruins: Game Day Thoughts

The Leafs return to Boston tonight to contest the second in a string of games that would make Bill Murray question his sanity. Of course, during the Leafs last visit our number 1 goalie pulled his groin during a 6-4 triumph and Andrew Raycroft remains in the press box where he shares wobbly pops with The Captain. JS Aubin will be handling the tending duties and he will have the Leafs newest father (congrats to Steen too) Pavel Kubina patrolling the front of the net. This will be only the fourth game in which the Leafs $20M defence will be together.

Keys to the Game
  • Goaltending: Last time out the Leafs got it and the Bruins, hilariously, did not. The Leafs managed to get outshot 17-10 in the first period but left with a 3-0 lead. Tim Thomas will probably get the start tonight and will try to improve on the team's horrendous 3.8GA/game.

  • Shooting: The Leafs would do well to pepper the net with shots. Considering that the Bruins are 28th in shots against at 33/game and Toronto is 1st in shots for at 35.1/game I expect it to resemble a shooting gallery.

  • Special Teams: It will be a battle of the nines as the ninth-ranked powerplay (Boston) will face the ninth-ranked penalty kill (Toronto). The Bruins won this battle last time going 2 for 5 but it was not enough. Clearly they will want to keep the PP off the ice (Discipline boys!) but they also have to ensure that Bostons speedsters like Patrice Bergeron and Phil Kessel are not able to isolate Hal Gill. He is great in the stationary penalty kill but I think the word 'lumbering' was invented to describe his skating. Kind of like 'shaky' was invented to describe Ottawa's goaltending.

  • Stepper-uppers: The Soviet Bloc will have to continue their strong play. Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky combined for 3 goals, 3 assists, and were +8 last Thursday. Both players used their size to torment the Bruins defence and Poni used his speed to create scoring chances. If both players continue their recent strong play then the Bruins will be hard pressed to find an answer as despite being the size of a sequoia Chara can only cover one player at a time.

Overall, if the Leafs can play their puck pressure game they should be in good shape. The Bruins defence is suspect past Ottawa Old Boy Zdeno Chara and the Bruins offence is top-line heavy. Boston is probably tired from chasing AO around the ice last night. If Tim Thomas is more Gerber than Raycroft then the Leafs should prevail.

No comments:

Post a Comment