PUCK DROP: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, Sportsnet Up Dere, WGN Radio
THEY FORGOT THEIR NAME, THEY TOOK A SHOT ON THE CHIN: Stanley Cup Of Chowder (sky point Days Of Y’Orr)
The Hawks will attempt to immediately back up a pretty satisfying victory over Former Scum with toppling the Bruins at home. Which these days, just about everyone does, as the B’s have been pretty putrid in the darks and pretty damn good in the whites. They’re basically East Coast Sharks, and that comparison actually works on a deeper level as much like San Jose it’s hard to figure out just what in the hell the Bruins are.
They certainly think they have something to play for, as they went out and got Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles at the deadline. Liles is certainly what they needed as they were short a top four d-man (or more). Lee Stempniak is definitely…. Lee Stempniak.
The B’s currently sit in the mishmash of the Flortheast Division, which the Hawks helped them out with last night. They’re a point ahead of the Wings, two points behind the Bolts (who pretty well clocked them on Sunday night on Causeway St.) and four behind the starting to hurl toward the big mat Panthers. But this is not the Bruins you may remember, if you somehow blacked out about last year. Aside from the still-somehow-underrated Patrice Bergeron, this is not the possession, even-strength behemoth that they used to be among the Eastern Conference penthouse for years. This is a team that’s pretty top heavy at forward, and thanks to the aging and slowing legs of Zdeno Chara doesn’t really have much at the back end either. And Tuukk-Nuke ’em hasn’t really been up to bailing them all out for large swaths of this season.
The B’s are below water when it comes to possession, at a team-rate of 48.8. They score a lot, third in the league, and generate a lot of shots but a lot of that comes from a very good power play and they give up way more chances and shots at evens than you’re accustomed to from a Claude Julien team. They carry some threat of course, with two pairings on their top six in Bergeron-Marchand (who is in full contract drive mode and was once described by our own Slaky as the lovechild of DJ Qualls and The Last Habsburg) and Eriksson-Krejci. Their third linemates tend to change from time to time, but those four have produced enough for the Bruins to hang around. Marchand and Bergeron are the two best even-strength forwards in the league according to some metrics, and Bergeron always dominates the puck when he’s on the ice.
But beyond that there just isn’t much. The Bruins didn’t have a Chara-replacement plan, or they did and it was called “Dougie Hamilton” and they simply let him walk to Calgary for picks that no one thinks they did much with. Chara, Seidenberg, Krug, Kevan Miller and his stupid A in his first name, and a cast of goofs and freaks from Providence have all taken turns getting run over by the opposition. The Bruins don’t get a whole lot of drive from their defense, something Liles is supposed to address.
Rask has swung wildly from awful in October and November, to dominant in December when the Bruins reeled off a ton of wins, to basically ok in January and very good in February. This Bruins team needs him to be excellent most nights, because they give up over 30 shots per game and a fair number of good chances.
For the Hawks, they’ll be starting Scott Darling on the road and we know how yippy of an experience that can be (.899 SV% this season). This, in theory, could be Darling’s last start with no back-to-backs left on the schedule and the Hawks racing for the division. Honestly, until they have the division wrapped up I would expect Crawford to get every start possible. The schedule doesn’t throw up any breaks for a couple weeks either, as after this it’s the Wings again, Blues, Stars, Kings, Wild (who are not great but have beaten the Hawks three times). Perhaps in that breather against the Flyers and Jets will Darling come up for air again.
Be interesting to see how Julien deploys Bergeron. You’d think it would be Toews, but the Hawks’ biggest danger is the SuperPAK line. With Ladd in tow though brave would be any coach that would let Toews face anything less than his best. The B’s have really struggled in The Hub this year, they’re the only playoff team in the East with a losing record there. An early lead could start the ghosts spreading in the minds of the players again. This is not a defense that should be able to keep the Hawks at bay, especially with how tasty Teuvo and Fleischmann have looked together as a third line.