|19 and 37 celebrate after Begy's goal last April vs. NY|
The Bruins open up tonight at home in the Garden against The New York Rangers. With all the hype surrounding this game it’s hard not to get wrapped up in feeling like it’s a lot more meaningful then it really is. Sure the NHL is only playing a little more than half of a season but there are still 48 games. That’s plenty of time to turn things around if you stumble out of the gate.
Fans should except to see some sloppy hockey to begin the season. Regardless of who’s played where and how much during the lockout teams will still have a lot of work to do getting back in sync with their fellow NHL employees.
Quality scorers will take advantage of rusty goaltenders and you should see higher than normal goals scored for the first couple weeks of the season. Fans will most likely notice an increase of bad passes, players going offsides, and poor stick-handling. It will also be a good test of endurance for the skaters trying to perform at NHL game speed without a true pre-season to prepare. What's the over/under on when Lucic is sucking wind tonight? I say after his third or fourth shift in the second period he might get in a fight just to get the extra 5 minutes of rest.
|Hopefully Lucic ran a couple laps in the off season|
With that being said the winner of tonight’s game is not the undisputed best team in the universe. With so much hockey left to be played there is still a ton of room for player improvement and team development.
Tonight’s game could be a glimpse at a potential Eastern Conference Final though. The Bruins have a young talented group of skaters that are very familiar with each other up and down the line-up. Whenever you can start a new season with 2 lines of solid forwards that have had success playing together for the past two seasons you can expect big things. The Bruin’s defense has done nothing but improve by keeping everyone on board and adding some kid named Douglas. I’m getting tired of saying this but Tuukka needs to be great. It’s the only way it will work. The Bruins need to keep the puck out of the net to have any chance at winning their second cup in 3 years.
After finishing first in the East with 51 wins and 109 points the Rangers are the favorite to win the conference again this year. This team stood out last year for their stellar defensive play as well as outstanding goal tending from Henrik Lundqvist. New York had 187 goals allowed last year. This led the league by 15 goals over the Bruins who let in 202. Their defensive unit is known for shot-blocking and physical play. NY’s goal scoring was mediocre last year ranking eleventh over-all with 222 goals. The main reason they look better in that department this year is the addition of left winger Rick Nash from the Blue-jackets. Nash netted 30 goals last year and 29 assists for Columbus. Marian Gaborik was the only player to have more than 30 goals last year for the Rangers with his 41 finishes. These two guys playing on a line centered by Brad Richards could be a force in the league this year. Nash will make the power play that much better as well.
Both the Bruins and the Rangers look like serious contenders for the Stanley Cup this year. If Pittsburg can stay healthy and Marc-Andre Fleury can shine they will be a tough team to beat in a seven game series as well. I also think the Kings have a great chance to repeat as champions. They were the beneficiary of an NHL lockout after winning it all which allowed them to completely avoid the Stanley Cup hangover and put them right back on pace with everyone else.
Bold Prediction: Bruins over the Rangers for the East, Bruins over the Kings for the Cup. Lock it up!