Posts Tagged ‘Tuukka Rask’

Good Times Garden

November 19, 2010

Things are going well when a guy scores a hat trick and is the second star of the game.

The party atmosphere at TD Garden was thanks to a phenomanal game by Tuukka Rask who made 41 saves to earn his first win of the year via a 4-0 shutout of the visiting Florida Panthers. The Bruins were a bit on their heels all night with Panther forwards buzzing around Rask’s goal but the young Finnish netminder rescued everyone’s bacon with save after save.

In the end, it allowed Milan Lucic to slam home three goals for his second career hat trick. Cue the music and dancing. Fun times at the Beantown Rink.

Lucic is blossoming in a big way this season. He’s becoming the sort of Power Forward that NHL scouts have wet dreams about. Big, nasty and talented. The puck is going in for him like never before in his career. One thing is certain, the man is finally healthy. I don’t think we can discount just how badly that high ankle sprain hampered his game last season. We all said it at the time. He wasn’t the same player.

So welcome back, Looch. You have arrived in style, for sure.

Nathan Horton had three assists on all three Lucic goals. The Bruins’ number one line, even without pivot David Krejci, is becoming one of the killer lines in the entire NHL. Something to keep other teams’ coaches awake at night before they play Boston.

The fun part is that we all know the team can play better, too. With Krejci back and a guy like Boychuk shaking off the rust, the team’s performance will only improve. You now have what might be the best goaltending tandem in the entire League. Think about it. A recent Vezina winner currently leading the league in all goaltending statistical categories in Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, the guy who finished the year as the leader in those same categories last season.

It’s all going pretty well. Hell, Shawn Thornton has 4 goals. Talk about a gentleman who deserves a little success. Go toe-to-toe with the nastiest pugilists the NHL has to offer (last night it was Darcy Hordichuk) then go out an pop one in the net in the third period. How valuable is a guy who can do that and also play a solid defensive game on your grinding line? The Bruins seem to have all the puzzle pieces falling into place this season and last night was a great example of how excellent things can be when that happens.

Good times, indeed.


2010-11 Season Preview

October 6, 2010

tyler seguin boston bruins

It’s been an odd day already today in Boston sports. The Patriots seemingly shooting themselves in the foot by trading Randy Moss. The Red Sox ownership getting into the EPL by spending $500 Million on Liverpool FC. There’s a weird buzz in the air an on the local sports talk airwaves, I tell you.

Seems like a great day to talk hockey, if you ask me.

The Boston Bruins finished off their preseason schedule yesterday with a sound drubbing of Liberec of the Czech Elite league thanks to a 5-point effort from Patrice Bergeron and a goal each from youngsters Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron. Feel free to pencil in each of them to the opening night roster because they will undoubtedly be there.

In my mind, much of the story in the early going might very well be about these two impressive rookies. Not since the team debuted Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov in 1997 has there been an infusion of youthful talent as exciting as what we’ll be seeing here this season. Granted, there are no guarantees of success for either of them but the outlook is good and they have shown in the preseason that they belong. With Marc Savard out and a clear dearth of scoring from the wing last season, it’s obvious that both are needed.

Here’s how I see the roster that will start the season. Line combinations based less on what’s happened in the preseason and more on how I configure them in NHL 11. What? 16 years of playing EA Sports hockey games doesn’t qualify me to be an NHL head coach? Whatever.


Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Blake Wheeler-Tyler Seguin-Mark Recchi
Daniel Paille-Patrice Bergeron-Jordan Caron
Shawn-Thornton-Gregory Campbell-Michael Ryder

Extra: Brad Marchand or Brian McGrattan


Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Mark Stuart-Johnny Boychuk
Andrew Ference-Matt Hunwick

Extra: Adam McQuaid


Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas

Not much in the way of surprises there. Not much in the way of controversy, either. The only real debate I can see is whether or not McGrattan sticks around as a spare forward, sending Marchand to Providence, or vice versa. Adam McQuaid seems the logical choice to be the bubble d-man but it’s possible Matt Bartkowski could leap over him on the depth chart with a strong preseason.

Actually, the defense is my one area of concern going into the season. At the top, it would seem like an area of real strengh with Zdeno Chara as the anchor but I have to admit to not being sold on the supporting cast. There remain a lot of questions concerning health, depth and ability. Andrew Ference and Mark Stuart have had some serious injury problems over the past few seasons, to the extent that I seriously question the sanity of the contract extension the latter received this past season from Peter Chiarelli, a three year deal for $2.25 each. Especially considering the Bruins’ current salary dilemmas. If either goes down, there are going to be some fresh faced youths having to be called into action because the defensive depth chart now, including McQuaid, consists of youngsters like Bartkowski, Steve Kampfer or someone like Nathan McIver. Yuri Alexandrov and many of the other prospects training in Providence just don’t have enough elite professional experience in their pockets to be totally NHL ready.

I could be wrong, though. We’ll certainly get the chance to see.

Salary Caps are a bitch, aren’t they, Pete? Pain in the ass.

It’s not an issue you can ignore when discussion the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins. We saw what the Chicago Blackhawks had to do in the offseason. Trade away half your team. No easy task but they managed to do it.

The Bruins, however, did not. Marc Savard was not traded. Tim Thomas was not traded. Michael Ryder (what? a guy can dream, can’t he?) was not traded. Silly contracts like Ference’s were added. It became a tight squeeze to fit under the cap and I ask, as a hardcore Be A GM Mode player on NHL 11, how can you not be prepared for that? Gotta think ahead. Avoid and get rid of bad deals that hamstring your ability to make moves. Add depth.

Wait. Did I say earlier there was no controversy or debate surrounding this year’s version of the team? What was I smoking?

Here are just some of the other issues the team will face this season.

  • Marc Savard. Will he ever be healthy again and if he is, how will they make salary room for him on the team. The elephant in the room is the idea that the star center’s absence might be a bit of a relief for the team because it puts them under the cap temporarily. Before he fell ill, Marc Savard was on the trading block because the Bruins needed salary space. Now they have it. Plus the chance to see what it will be like to play without him, if he ever gets traded which seems unlikely right now, doesn’t it? Makes you think about the seven year deal that he just signed, as well.
  • Tim Thomas. Sitting there as a clear back-up but making $5 million for the next three. I hope he plays well this season, for his own sake. If it means he can be traded then it’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned. My bet is he dying to show folks that he’s still one hell of a competitor no matter his age or what not. The Tank is nothing if not a battler. Meanwhile, Rask remains entrenched as the number one, a potential goaltending star on the rise.
  • Then, of course, there’s the sting of, oh, I don’t know, something we refer to around here as just THE WORST FUCKING LOSS IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. EVER. Up 3-0 in the series. Up 3-0 in game fucking seven at home in your own building. Jesusfuckingchristalmighty. How to live that down when many of the core members of that monumental choke are still on this team. I mean, Dennis Wideman wasn’t to blame for it all, folks.
  • Which leads me to one last controversy. Let’s talk about the so-called Hot Seat.

  • Claude Julien. Should he be on it for what happened in the playoffs last season and in previous campaigns? I’ve heard him making the injury excuse but the truth is his team had a tendency to fall flat and let teams walk all over them at other times during the season, too. Remember Pittsburgh? It was a theme last year. Let us not forget how bad they were at times. Will there be a return of the sort of commitment the team needs to be successful including a commitment to team toughness? Is that a fault of the coaching?
  • peter chiarelli claude julien

    I don’t know. Some might think Chiarelli more deserves the hot seat for his salary cap bumbling and his recent failures in the trade market. Nathan Horton was a nice move and the Phil Kessel deal was inspired but there has been little else for the GM to hang his hat on. Cam Neely is now looking down on him and the Sword of Damocles might very well be raised if his vision of the team does not begin to materialize this season. I’d feel more comfortable leading the charge for Chiarelli than Julien right now but there may come a time when they both go if things get bad again.

    Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen, eh? Let’s watch Seguin and Charon and Rask and see if they can become real players. Same thing goes for Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic, for that matter. Can they be consistent producers on the wing? Goals, physical play, everything. That’s what the team needs from them, of that I am certain.

    Starting this Saturday in Prague, we’ll get see what happens.

    It won’t be boring I don’t think.

    History Will Not Be Made

    May 14, 2010

    My prediction for this series was Bruins in 7.

    I’m sticking with it.

    The Philadelphia Flyers will not be the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. The Boston Bruins will use home ice advantage for all it’s worth tonight for an emotional, high energy win that will blow the roof off the building and this town. Tonight the Mojo Returns.

    You hear me, NHL? Put away the sappy piano music and the reverse motion film machine. There will be no, “What if the Flyers gave up?” needed. They will lose tonight.

    I truly believe this. I have to. I’m not even going to mention things like B’s record in 7th games or the home teams’ record in 7th games in the 2010 playoffs. None of that matters. Tonight will be different.

    They can’t let us down again. They just can’t.

    I implore every fan attending the game to be completely insane all night long no matter what happens. I ask every B’s fan on Earth watching the game to summon from the ether all the Mojo they can find and send it toward TD Garden. Wear your lucky shirt or your lucky socks. Eat your lucky meal during the game. Sit in that lucky chair.

    I implore the Bruins players to come out with a fire like none they have ever felt. Zdeno Chara, you’ve got to be a monster out there. Did you take note of how no Flyer could stop you when you made that rush into their offensive zone in the last game? Drive that shit right to the net. See if they can stop 260 lbs. of psychotic Slovakian on a mission. Same goes for you, Milan Lucic. Did you see where you scored that goal from in the waning minutes of Game 6? In front of the goddamned net. That’s where you need to park yourself tonight. Get in there and get ugly. Play like your hair is on fire.

    It goes for all of you. Tuukka, you need to be a wall. Marc Savard, we need more magic. Patrice Bergeron, be the puck. Wheeler and Ryder, maybe not whiff on quite so many one-timers tonight. Recchi and Satan, it ain’t over yet, guys, it just ain’t. Begin, Thornton, Sobotka. It’s high grade sandpaper time. Daniel Paille? If there’s an open net, for the love of god, bury that fucker. All of you. Please. This is the night to show up.

    Don’t let us down.

    Don’t let it end tonight.

    We need this.

    The Young Ones

    May 6, 2010

    Their combined age is 77 years. They have played a total of 2,621 games in the NHL between them for 10 different NHL teams. 926 career goals, 2,220 career points. The were both added to the Boston Bruins on one year contracts as a short term solution to add scoring depth and experience to a young team seemingly lacking in both.

    Oh, yeah. They both have their names on the Stanley Cup, as well.

    And it shows.

    Of course, you know by now I’m talking about Miroslav Satan and Mark Recchi.

    miroslav satan boston bruins 81 mark recchi boston bruins

    Besides the relentless, blanketing play of Zdeno Chara in the Boston zone and the implacable wall that has been Tuukka Rask in net, there can be no question that the undying experience, skill and leadership of the Bruins two elder statesmen has been a driving force behind the Boston Bruins remarkable 2010 playoff run.

    It’s hard to imagine where the team might be without them, in fact. Watching them play in this post-season has been a revelation, though, and a joy when one truly begins to appreciate what it is these two veterans are bringing to the table in this, the most important and defining of times in any man’s NHL career; The Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    Recchi – Leader on and off the ice, unstoppable drive, fearless in the “dirty areas” and possessing some of the purest hockey sense you’re ever going to see. Tony Amonte, former teammate and roommate, on a local post-game analysis show said that he always called Recchi the “War Dog” because he always knew he was going to be there for every game, giving everything he had, focused, hard-working, determined as hell. The nickname fits. You see it every minute he’s on the ice.

    Satan – Calm skill, clutch goals, the sort of hands around the net you just have to be born with. There’s a sense the man loves the limelight of scoring big goals in big moments and more power to him. Dance all you want, you Devil, you. When the puck’s in the back of the net at those sort of key times in games, you’ve earned a chance to strut. Three game winning goals in the playoffs so far.

    Claude Julien, speaking about Recchi:

    “His work ethic is second to none. Recks’ experience around the dressing room has been really useful for us this year. We do have a lot of young players, and those players have grown just by his presence. With the way he competes every night, you can’t ask for a better example. He’s played well. He’s played hard. And like I said, he doesn’t look like a 42-year-old. He looks like a veteran, but a young veteran.”

    About Satan:

    “From day one, he’s just been getting better and better… you could see that this guy has experience and he has experience in big games as well as part of the Stanley Cup team last year. He’s been through those situations. He’s very calm, he’s poised, very good with the puck, seems to have good chemistry with Krejci. He’s been a real good addition. He’s just stepped in and done a tremendous job.”

    The stats line for the two up to this point.

  • Mark Recchi – 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, +1
  • Miroslav Satan – 5 goals, 5 assist, 10 points +5
  • They’re both averaging almost 20 minutes a night on the ice. Both are key elements of the power play. Recchi is now killing penalties because of the injury to Marco Sturm. It is truly amazing to see the way these two have contributed in a season that, I think I can safely say, a lot of experts probably thought they would have little or no impact at one last stop on their way out of the league entirely.

    The Boston Bruins and their fans are quite happy that’s not the case right now.

    Mr. Mojo Risin’

    May 4, 2010

    boston bruins mojo

    The Bruins 2-0 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers, accomplished in dramatic fashion with late game heroics in two hotly contested games at TD Garden in Boston, has created a lot of Buzz around the Black and Gold here, now. You could feel it building as they were beating the Buffalo Sabres and the home games were becoming loud, raucus, joyous affairs each night. Something special was in the air. Heroes were being born. It seemed like all the disfunction had been flushed away and it was Band of Brothers time.

    Still, after the disappointments of the regular season, people were cautious not to get their hopes up. A six game victory over Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs is nice but it doesn’t mean your team are world beaters. The Sabres just aren’t that good.

    But it felt great, didn’t it?

    Something intangible seemed to be swirling around the team. A certain mojo.

    On to the second round and the Bruins get an astonishingly good draw thanks to arch-rival Montreal pulling off the upset of the year by beating the Washington Capitals in 7 games. Home ice advantage and the seventh seeded, banged up Philadelphia Flyers come to town led by journeyman golatender Brian Boucher. Two fun filled, dramatic games later the Bruins have taken command of the series at 2-0 thanks, once again, to overtime goals seemingly yanked from the pages of a Hollywood script and end of game clutch play from guys who struggled all year long. Things that just never seemed to happen much during the entire regular season are happening every game now.


    You can’t deny it. Things have changed around the Boston Bruins and all for the better. Perhaps, when you look at the awful run they endured during the 2009-10 regular season, you might want to think that the pain and suffering and strife somehow made them stronger. Perhaps, to truly enjoy the team’s resurgence, you think that the punishment we fans endured will only make the celebrations that much more enjoyable. All of this could very well be true.

    There’s a theory out there, and I’ve heard it put forth by none other than Cam Neely on a weekly radio interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub, that the Matt Cooke/Pittsburgh situation was actually the turning point for the team’s season because that was where they bottomed out. After that March 18th game where the team failed to satisfy universal expectations to rise to the occaision and redeem themselves and were utterly beaten and humiliated, they had reached their absolute low. They heard it from fans, they heard it from media, they heard it from management. It was as bad as it could get.

    Meaning, there was no where to go but up.

    Is that where they looked into that cliched mirror and decided it was time to grow a pair? Is that where they realized how far they had fallen and that it was time to start clawing their way back?

    I’m not sure it was anything that dramatic. I think this Bruins team tends to play best when they need to. You could see that down the stretch when every point became essential to making they playoffs. They won the games they needed to and drove themselves to that sixth seed in the East. They don’t handle success quite as well. The way they played this season suggests that whenever they reach a certain comfort level, they relax and their game suffers. See Game 5 of the Buffalo series. It will be interesting to see how they react to being up 2-0 against the Flyers in that context.

    The bottom line is this. The B’s are two wins away from the Eastern Conference Finals and they have five games to do it and home ice advantage. They will, should they advance, face either the Pens or the Habs, either of which will be an explosive series in an almost nuclear sense. Just flat out Huge, folks.

    As a hockey fan, these are the times you live for.

    And, oh yeah, there’s that matter of the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft which guarantees you one of two potential superstar impact forwards, which is exactly what you need. This run right now could just be the beginning. A preview of things to come if the team continues to build as it has. You now have the goalie of your future in Tuukka Rask. You have the best shut down defenseman in the NHL in Zdeno Chara. Stud young centermen like Krejci and Bergeron, both still under 25 years old. Milan Lucic, if he can regain form and continue improving.

    The peices of the puzzle are coming together, folks. They are being assembled before our eyes here and the Big Picture is coming into focus and it’s starting to look like a big ol’ Spoked “B”.

    So, yeah, without getting too carried away, there certainly is a different feeling over at the Garden these days. Something in the air.


    Bringing It Home

    April 27, 2010
    david krejci ryan miller

    David Krejci Shakes The Hand of the Man He Beat Twice In Game 6

    This was David Krejci’s game. And it was Mark Recchi’s. It was Tuukka Rask’s and Zdeno Chara’s. And it was the Boston Bruin’s fans’ at the TD Garden.

    Those were the key contributors in the dramatic, hard fought, one-goal victory for the the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres to advance to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against a team as yet to be determined (awaiting the results of the Montreal-Washington Game 7 – more on that at some point).

    The Sabres wouldn’t go out without a fight, of course, and Ryan Miller played another excellent game. It may look on the surface like a disappointing playoffs for Miller but he was not to be blamed for the way Buffalo was beaten. If fans up there are looking for goats, you’d have to take a look at guys who took stupid penalties that, for once, the Bruins took advantage of on the power play. An area of weakness during the regular season, the man advatage became an area of strength for the B’s in this series and last night they scored two key power play goals early on to take a 2-0 lead.

    Just another example of how the world was turned upside down during this series. A Bruins team that seemed lost and characterless at times and amazingly feeble on offense has now, in the post season, found itself.

    Of course, the ugliness of the regular season is what kept Buffalo in this game. Two astonishingly bad turnovers by Dennis Wideman and Michael Ryder respectively led to two Sabres goals that could have been killers. It was the scrappy resolution of Mark Recchi and the focused talent of David Krejci and the octopus-like reach of Zdeno Chara that kept that from happening, however.

    Admit it, folks. The Bruins looked pretty damn good. Not bad for a team still without it’s leading scorer and two of it’s top four defensemen. Besides Krejci and the relentless play of Patrice Bergeron, it was the greybeards that kept the B’s alive and moving forward here. Recchi has just been a revelation in the playoffs. Here’s a guy who just flat out gets it. A guy, even at age 42, who just will not stop working and hitting and making all the little plays you need to to get it done in post-season play. A leader in every area and a man with some of the most sublime hockey sense as you’ll ever come across.

    The other senior citizen on the team, Miroslav Satan, was again devilishly good as he got his second game winner of the series with a late third period goal. Again, calm nerves and an adept scoring touch when it’s late and the game is on the line. You can’t measure that sort of aspect of a guy’s character. It’s either there or it isn’t and, thankfully in the case of Recchi and Satan, it’s there.

    So. A great, tight, hard-fought series and the prospect of another on the way and Boston is the Hub of Hockey once again for a while. Bruins will play either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers in the next round depending on the winner of the aforementioned Caps-Habs game seven. I’ll take either becuase they both promise to be rock ’em sock ’em affairs and the B’s have the ability to beat either, I believe. We might even see the return of an injured player or two.

    Onward ho!

    Worshipping Satan

    April 22, 2010
    miroslav satan boston bruins

    Dennis Wideman Embraces A Leaping Miroslav Satan After His Game Winning Goal in Double Overtime of Game Four

    What a spectacular game at the Garden tonight. It had everything. End to end action, astonishing saves, great scraps, huge hits, dramatic comebacks. A crowd on it’s feet roarin’ and rockin’ all night long. Double overtime and a fantastic goal to finish things off in favor of the Boston Bruins who take a commanding 3-1 lead in their series with the Buffalo Sabres.

    We have Miroslav Satan to thank for it.

    It was his power play goal at 7:41 of the second overtime that sent everyone home happy and put the Sabres on the brink of elimination. It was a sweet move on a rush up ice by the reborn Michael Ryder who set up Satan alone in the slot. The veteran goal scorer saw Ryan Miller way out of his net expecting a shot and did a casual little move to his right and slipped the puck between a defenseman’s legs into a yawning, empty net. The score came in the waning seconds of a Bruins power play that was served up on a platter by Drew Stafford and Tim Connolly who completely muffed a line change resulting in too many men on the ice.

    The real blame on the goal lays at the feet of Miller, though, who had, until then, played a brilliant game in net along with his counterpart Tuukka Rask. On the winner, he came way too far out of the net and gambled everything on a shot, leaving himself exposed to a very simple deke. Maybe he figured no one on the B’s had that move in him, I don’t know. It may have cost his team the series.

    Other key moments, captured in pictures.

    milan lucic vs craig rivet

    Milan Lucic Battles Sabres Captain Craig Rivet

    patrice bergeron goal boston bruins

    Patrice Bergeron Celebrates His Game Tying Goal in the Third

    tuukka rask great save

    Tuukka Rask Makes an Incredible Diving Save on Mike Grier

    There’s almost too much to talk about with this game and I’m in a state of blissful exhaustion from watching it but it’s a good goddamned feeling, I’ll tell you. The Bruins have come back home and rocked this entire town with the way they’ve played in this series. Bruins fans are dancing in the streets on their way home tonight and for once it’s not just the booze alone. This is the kind of hockey we signed up for.

    Way to make up for a rough regular season, boys. Oh, and Marc Savard is getting healthy and we’re getting a bona fide superstar in the 2010 draft.

    Things are looking up, bitches.

    Where The Bruins Roam

    April 17, 2010

    boston bruins buffalo sabres game 2

    So who is this Michael Ryder guy, anyway? Anyone? Some new signee I haven’t heard of? Some dude called up from the ECHL? Because he’s not bad. Scored a couple goals. Landed a few hits. Y’know, the Bruins could have used a guy like him this season. At least he’s here now, though, eh?

    An excellent win for the B’s in Buffalo this afternoon to even up their best of seven first round series against the Sabres. Two goals from the aforementioned new guy Ryder, two from the big feller Zdeno Chara and an empty netter from the sturdily reliable Mark Recchi and the B’s were on their way home with a nice split of the two games up there. In fact, they played fairly well in both of them and can safely feel pretty good about themselves as they return to the TD Garden.

    Maybe better if it was a place where they showed any capacity to win at recently.

    But enough with the negative naybobishness. This was a good victory for a team with a lot of doubts surrounding it. Admit it, my fellow faithful and less than so, when the team was down 2-0 early, how many of you not only wrote off this game but pretty much the whole series with a sort of “Here we go again” slumping of your shoulders and a sigh? I’ll admit it. I did.

    A few decent bounces later and some renewed enthusiasm from a team that suddenly remembered how to hit and score and the series take a dramatic turn for the better from a Boston perspective.

    And the fact that Thomas Vanek got injured doesn’t hurt, either, does it?

    No, there’s definately reason for optimism now with the team having stolen away home ice advantage and found itself a little character in the process. Ryan Miller doesn’t look so superhuman anymore and Patrick Kaleta seems more insignificant, like the annoying little gnat he really is.

    On the flip side Tuukka Rask, if there were any doubts after he gave up the first two and heard the chants of the Buffalo crowd, became more solid as the game wore on and made some nice saves near the end when the team needed them most. Zdeno Chara looks like a true leader out there. So does Mark Recchi. Guys are responding. Even the new guys like Ryder.

    Solid, folks. Solid all around.

    Monday is looking like a lot more fun right now, isn’t it?

    Buffalo Bound

    April 15, 2010

    boston bruins buffalo sabres

    Once more into the breach, dear friends.

    Tonight in Buffalo, at the HSBC Arena, the Boston Bruins begin their 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff run against the Buffalo Sabres. Though the expectations are far lower than they were last year and there isn’t the hated Montreal Canadiens to make our blood boil, it still remains the most exciting time to be a hockey fan, in this city or any other.

    I recall it was the crazed enthusiasm and mad-dog fury of the Bruins-Canadiens series of the past two years, the team’s return to serious playoff contention, that finally pushed me to take my hockey writing from just doing the odd piece here and there on other websites and focus it here in a little something we now call HGW. Suddenly, after years of pain and misery and failure the B’s seemed relevant again and there was just too much to talk about to be confined elsewhere. Hockey Gone Wild was born.

    This season has been a bit more difficult, I must admit, but no less interesting in terms of stories to talk about. From the ongoing injury woes, the struggling play and questions of character, Don Cherry’s rantings, the Matt Cooke incident, the clawing their way into the playoffs and the Draft Lottery, there have been no shortage of stories on our plates this year. All of that now is prologue to what begins this evening. Tonight the slate is wiped clean and everyone starts with a 0-0 record.

    With that in mind, some previews and predictions for the Bruins-Sabres and the remaining series:

    Boston Bruins vs Buffalo Sabres – The series might start and end with Goaltending. It’s often the story in the NHL Playoffs but in this series it might be the most prime example available. Ryan Miller and Tuukka Rask ended the season as the two highest ranked netminders in the league in terms of GAA and Saves Percentage. Tuukka, a rookie who started almost 30 less games than Miller, had the slight edge in numbers with his 1.97 GAA and .931 Sv% compared to Miller’s 2.22 and .929. We all know, though, from watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver how good Ryan Miller can be when the stakes are high. His play throughout that tournament was spectacular and, should his game elevate to that level in this series, the Bruins’ woeful offense will be sorely tested. As will the seemingly steady, unflappable resolve of rising star Tuukka Rask.

    It’s a great story, really, a great match-up. The two teams are actually very evenly matched when you look at it. Though the Sabres scored a few more goals in the regular season (didn’t everybody?) they gave up almost the same amount. They remain two teams built on defense and goaltending and grinding play. Zdeno Chara, towering defensemen and key player on the Bruins, will be mirrored by his Buffalo counterpart, rookie Tyler Myers. The Sabres might have the edge in scoring with guys like Vanek and Roy and Pominville but the B’s might be the better penalty killing team and we know how important specialty teams are in the post season.

    In the end, so much relies on the goaltending. From a Boston perspective, Tuukka Rask need to play well for them to have a chance. They also need elevated play from their key players, Patrice Bergeron, David Krecji and Milan Lucic. They need someone on the wing to step up and be consistently productive. Is it too much to ask for Michael Ryder or Marco Sturm or Blake Wheeler to find their scoring touch again? Maybe so. Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a grinding series and, hopefully, a lot of nasty fun to watch. I’m going to stay with my homeristic hopes and call it for the locals because to think otherwise is too much of a buzz kill. Bruins in 7.

    Montreal Canadiens vs Washington Capitals – The Montreal Men’s Skating Choir versus the powerhouse, beast of the east, high scoring, high flying Caps. The Habs by once again falling to that 8th and final playoff spot in the east have not done themselves any favors this season. They merely earned the privilege of being the cannon fodder for the hungriest, most talented team out there right now. The wee little appetizer before the main course. No contest here, folks. Capitals in 4.

    Los Angeles Kings vs Vancouver Canucks – Everyone seems to like the Hawks coming out of the West but I think I need to go against that grain a little bit and look at Vancouver. I like this team a lot, I really do. There’s serious depth at forward with the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and a group of excellent wingers to complement them. If defense is a minor weakness, well, there’s Roberto Luongo to offset that. The Kings might be a rising team but this will not be their year having to face such an excellent Canucks team in the first round. Vancouver in 5.

    Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks – The Predators made the playoffs, did they? This, to me, is the West’s verion of Habs/Caps. No contest. I mean, Nashville is a team that scored 225 goals and gave up 225 goals. That’s some glaring mediocrity for you right there, that is. The Hawks, meanwhile, are just too talented and they want this badly, I think. As long as they don’t take the Preds too lightly (like I am right now…) they should steamroll on to the next round. Blackhawks in 4.

    Alright, then. Enough talk. Let’s play some damn hockey!

    Dear Toronto,

    April 14, 2010

    I just wanted to send you guys a little note to say thanks. You folks, the Maple Leafs and their fans, have been very kind and generous to us, the Boston Bruins and their fans, of late and, well, I just want you to know how grateful we are.

    For starters, you took mealy mouthed, whiny little Phil Kessel off our hands and paid him his 5 million dollars. I know that probably seems like a lot of money right now given how ineffective and irrelevant his 55 points were this season but you have to look at it from our point of view here in Boston. It’s not easy to get rid of a guy with those sort of demands when you pretty much know he’s going to score you 30 of the most meaningless goals you’ll ever see. Unfortunately, when the games really mean something, he’ll be nowhere to be found. See his performances against his old team this season and, moreso, see how little impact he had on Team USA in the Olympics. Guy has a little bit of talent but, let’s be honest, he’s not packing that much not where it really counts. So thank you for giving him a home up there.

    Now, you know the second part of this. Thank you for the compensation you provided the Bruins for Phil Kessel. It really was ridiculously generous. A first round pick in 2010 and another in 2011 plus a second rounder in 2010, too. The word “magnanimous” does not begin to describe how incredible a gift it was you gave to us all here. Now that we know the first of those picks will allow the B’s to draft one of the two potential superstars of the 2010 draft, Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, we can see the real scope of your generosity and it’s overwhelming. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

    And to think, we’ll get next year’s, too. Don’t feel like you need to play quite so poorly next season, by the way. You’ll make us feel guilty, for Pete’s sake. No, just finish in the lower 10 in the league, which should be quite easy for you to do, and we’ll be satisfied. You can still get some great draft picks in that area.

    While I’m at it, I’d also like to thank you for Tuukka Rask, too , by the way. Giving him to the B’s in return for Andrew Raycroft was the sort of present not even Santa Claus himself could have matched. I’m getting a bit weepy as I write this, actually, but, gosh, when a team lets you have a goaltender that, in his rookie season, puts up the best GAA and Saves Percentage in the NHL, well, you see how one could get a bit emotional. To think, he’ll be starting in net for this team for the next decade or so and provide the foundation for years worth of potential contending teams right alongside the other superstar talent you’ve allowed us to acquire. It’s almost too much.

    Suffice to say there is a swelling inside my chest today and it’s pointed northwards.

    So, thank you once again, Toronto, from deep within the Heart of Bruins Nation for all you’ve done, saving us from a miserable 2009-10 season and given us all hope again. You’ve jump-started our franchise and made the future so bright it’s practically blinding.

    Don’t worry, though. I’m sure we can find a way to repay you. Maybe by helping you sell out the Air Canada Centre whenever the Bruins are in town as many of the locals will want to come out to watch whichever mega-stud Ontario boy we draft.

    See you, then.