The Boston Bruins are once again faced with back-to-back games tonight in Pittsburgh against the Penguins and Halloween night back in Boston where they will face the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins are currently in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, however they have three games in hand on the the first place Toronto Maple Leafs and the third place Montreal Canadiens. And they have two games in hand on the second place Tampa Bay Lightning. The Penguins currently sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division and the Ducks are second in the Pacific Division.
Statistics are nice, but the season is early, with so much hockey left to play, that sitting at the top of the division does not guarantee a Stanley Cup–as the Penguins found out last season.
To be effective against Pittsburgh, the Bruins must come out in full force with a “take no prisoners” attitude. If the last 10-game streaks for both teams are examined, the Bruins have done better in the wins and in the goals against. With Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma’s decision to start Marc-Andre Fleury in net, the Bruins may be able to take advantage of his sometimes less than stellar performance between the pipes. Fleury currently has a .928 save percentage which is 9th in the league.
While all the Bruins will need to stand tall and work together, they are likely happy that Tuukka Rask will be backing them up against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Rask’s current save percentage is .947 which is 3rd in the NHL. Rask has already had his first shut-out of the season which he earned when the Bruins played in Tampa on October 19. However they will need to deny chances by both of these players while not opening up space for the other Penguins to sneak in unwatched.
Regardless of how the Bruins do in Pittsburgh, they must hop on their plane and return to Boston to prepare for their tilt against the Ducks tomorrow. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they will not have the services of forwards Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, or Jakob Silfverberg who, along with defenseman Luca Sbisa, are all listed as injured reserve.
Even without these players, the Ducks can still be a formidable team. Team captain Ryan Getzlaf is currently averaging a point per game, as is Corey Perry. However, Perry has been quiet in a couple of the recent games–including the Ducks win over the Philadelphia Flyers on October 29.
When the Bruins work together, getting clean tape-to-tape passes and keeping the play in their offensive zone, they can quickly put their opponent on their heels. Everyone will need to play a solid game, rather than relying on Rask to make insane stops as he had to do when the Bruins basically stole the game from the San Jose Sharks last week. Though, given some of the snipers on both teams, Rask will have to be at his best and most focused in goal.
Likewise they cannot get complacement if they get up by a couple of goals or they could find that they are the ones on their heels, as happened Saturday night when they lost to a struggling New Jersey Devils. Nor can the Bruins only play strong in one or two periods. These two games will require full efforts from everyone when they are on the ice.