FACEOFF: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, NHLN, WGN Radio 720
DON’T FORGET WE’RE AT THE BOTTOM LOUNGE FOR THIS ONE TONIGHT! 1375 W. LAKE ST.
Always nice to remember why you put up with the slog that the NHL season can sometimes turn into, and the Hawks will obviously get a reminder tonight when they step onto Garden ice tonight. As you may have read from everyone and their mother, the Hawks return to the site of their latest triumph tonight to face what has only been the hottest team in the league lately. And they were pretty farkin’ good before that. So yay.
The Bruins had their 12-game winning streak “snapped” when they lost to the Habs in a shootout in Boston on Monday. As they tend to do against Montreal, the Bruins completely went mental (otherwise known as “going St. Louis”) and engaged in a lot of dick-measuring with the Canadiens instead of kicking in their skull hockey-wise which they really should have done. While the Boston faithful will be baying for blood tonight as well and the B’s might show a little more of a snarl than they did here in January, there isn’t a lack of respect for the Hawks that the B’s have for Montreal, Buffalo, or Vancouver (or probably a host of other teams). I would expect shenanigans to be at a minimum.
How did the Bruins rip off 12 in a row? Basically by being the Bruins to the hilt. Simply snuffing out every other teams’ offense and hoarding the puck themselves. Rolling four lines at you that are all big and can all score and basically grounding you into dust. And Zdeno Chara. And Tuukke Nuke’em. It’s all pretty lethal.
The top line has really started to sparkle for Boston, with Jarome Iginla finally finding the net regularly again and up to 28 goals. He’s got five in his last five. In fact, the Bruins’ lines have basically been the same all year (imagine that). To wit:
Soderberg has actually been sneaky good on that line, with 41 points this season after only glimpses at the end of last year. And you know all about the top six, with Bergeron and Toews likely to resume their cage-ladders-and-chairs match again tonight. They’re certainly deep.
At the back Chara has found his Norris form again, and Andrej Mezsaros has turned out to be a better replacement for Dennis Seidenberg than I thought he would be. Though it hasn’t quite shaken out like that. as Dougie Hamilton mostly skates with Chara and Mezsaros with Matt Bartkowski/Johnny Boychuk. Do I trust Bartkowski, Krug, and Kevan Miller and his stupid “a” in his first name when the chips are down? I sure do not but they’re making it work now. Meszaros missed the Canadiens game but I haven’t seen anything about his status tonight.
And of course, there’s Tuukka Rask with his .930 SV% and 2.05 GAA. Those’ll do.
For the Hawks, the lineup looks to remain the same as Tuesday’s win, which means Bickell is still hurt and Jeremy Morin still fucked. Q will obviously try to pick spots for Teuvo’s line, but on the road against this team you can’t hide him for 60 minutes. He’s going to see a really good center across from him no matter when he’s out there. Enjoy the deep end, Finnish Baby Jesus.
There’s a chance the B’s try the same posturing bullshit they did on Monday, in which case the Hawks will have to cash in on the power plays they get. They probably have to do that anyway, because getting anything at even-strength off the Bruins without Patrick Kane is kind of a trick. Going at Chara just like the Hawks did in Games 4-6 is probably still the plan. Putting the puck behind him and seeing if he can win the races, which he usually can’t. Though attacking Hamilton wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
On the other end, it’s the same as always. You can’t let these Bruins wingers get on you from every line because that’s when they create, after they recover the puck. They can do it on their own as well but don’t need the help. Considering that Oduya has looked a half-step slower recently and Sheldon Brookbank and Brent Seabrook have looked like Sheldon Brookbank and Brent Seabrook, you see where the problems are. The forwards had better be close and present.
There’s obviously a stout physical challenge to face tonight. With the last game a loss and the return of the Hawks, you can be sure the building and the Bruins will have a little more spice tonight. A mistake a lot of teams make against the Bruins is trying to match their physical ways, which is folly. The Hawks have to play with speed to neutralize that Bruins’ style. And speed isn’t fly patterns to Alshon at the other blue line.
Corey Crawford gets the start. Should be a good one. The Avalanche are hosting the Canucks on the second of a back-to-back, so two points would be pretty nice to hold onto that cushion for 2nd.