We didn't think there was an "on switch" for the playoffs. The Bruins had played an extremely lazy March/April and limped into the playoffs like Erik Karlsson limps out of Pittsburgh.
Two minutes into the game, the Leafs score while all the Bruins simply stoodd around and watch. It was like getting punched in the stomach. They didn't flip the switch.
Or so we thought.
For the next 58 minutes the Bruins gave us a middle finger and for one game at least showed they CAN turn it on when they want to and completely outclassed the Maple Leafs. Sweet jebus.
Like, completely. The Leafs looked like a team that really isn't playoff ready and would only make the playoffs in a short season.
The game wasn't even as "close" as 4-1. Reimer's five hole was looser than a retired porn star's. We're pretty sure we heard Maple Leafs fans demanding that the team trade for Steve Mason so they could get an upgrade in net.
Sure, the Leafs tried the strategy of continually putting the Bruins on the powerplay but thanks to Wade Redden not even that worked.
Oh God it's here. It's finally here. It has arrived!
It doesn't matter who I picked to win this series yesterday because I am usually wrong with this kind of stuff. Today is the start of a new day, a new season. Whatever happened in March or the first half of April is now meaningless. It's the mother fucking playoffs! This is everything that you look forward to if you're a hockey fan. This is when the real fun (or real misery) happens. This is where you endless dance and celebrate with friends or you wake around your house for a weekend as a mute because your friends/family are afraid to speak to you.
This is everything.
Yes I picked the Leafs to win the series in 6 games. Yes, I am a horrible fan.
I think tonight the Bruins come out with a fire under their asses. I think they've woken up. I could be wrong - but what's the playoffs without a little positivity? A little enthusiasm? Maybe this was their plan all along. Maybe they saw the Senators sitting in seventh and said to themselves "no thanks, we want Toronto".
Or maybe I'm wrong - what the fuck so I know?
All I know is that Boston has the fantastic task of letting down about 75% of the Canadian population with a win in this series.
Tonight the Bruins open their series with the Toronto Maple Leafs - a team that hasn't won a Stanley Cup in my 30 years on Earth. The last time they won the Cup, Lyndon B. Johnson was President and the Beatles just released Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. I mean, think about that. Think about what that means for a second.
Tonight the Bruins take the ice against these fools in hopes of doing what they've done to them the past few season: kick their ass.
The Bruins wake up tonight. I'm calling it. I'll go completely Theon Turncloak on myself and say that the Bruins do it tonight. You can knock experience, but I think it means something this time of year and Boston is full of playoff experience.
It all starts between the pipes for Boston and the Bruins have one of the best goalies in the NHL. Rask is currently in Vezina contention. He's 9th in GAA at 2.00 and 7th in SV% at .929. Those rankings may not look Vezina worthy, but take into account that NHL.com puts anyone who has played an NHL game in their database and the first three people have only played a handful of games.
I know a lot of people are down on Rask, for some odd reason, but the last time he let in more than three goals was late March against the Montreal Canadiens.
But we can continue to blame everything on the goalie because he let in a "soft" goal.
If Boston is going to succeed tonight, they will need to do two things:
1. Put good shots on net, instead of their usual game of throwing the puck at the goalie's crest
2. Play disciplined.
They lack discipline in the worst way, especially lately. In the last 7 games, the Bruins have 23 minor penalties and 6 major penalties (all fights). Out of those 23 minor penalties, the opponents has scored 5 power play goals - or converted 21% of the time, which means Boston has only killed 79% of those penalties.
However I don't think it plays a factor tonight. I think you see a full 60 minute effort from this team, finally. With the lines back to somewhat normal (and we'll touch on that in a minute), it's go time. It's time for the war face.
After the jump the rest of the preview...
Leafs Projected Lines
Versus Blowjobs - Who? - One Nut Pizza Face
King Joffrey - Gabbo The Puppet - Some name I can't pronounce
Clahk Macahtah - Gets Injured In Practice - Scrub 1
Can't Skate - Scrub 2 - Scrub 3
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Kaspars Daugavins - Chris Kelly - Jaromir Jagr
Dan Paille - Greg Campbell - Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Johnny Boychuk - Wade Redden
Adam McQuaid - Andrew Ference
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders: 0-0
Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators: 0-0
Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers: 0-0
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild: CHI Leads 1-0
Anaheim Ducks vs Detroit Red Wings: ANA Leads 1-0
Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks: 0-0
St. Louis Blues vs Los Angeles Kings: STL Leads 1-0
Poor, poor New York Islanders. It's the first time they've made the playoffs since 2007, where they lost to Buffalo in 5 games in the first round. Now, 6 years later, they get to play one of the best NHL rosters put together, potentially in the history of the NHL. Yeah, that's a pretty big statement but you're looking at a roster with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla (sadface) and Brenden Morrow - and that list only contains three players who started the season with a C on their jersey.
Pittsburgh is a disgusting team. They finished the year first in the NHL in goals per game, scoring 3.38 goals per game. They also finished the year second in the NHL on the power play, converting 24.7% of all of their power plays. They are an offensive machine. Look at their goal scorers:
Chris Kunitz: 22
James Neal: 21 (in 40 games)
Pascal Dupuis: 20
Sidney Crosby: 15 (in 36 games; and has 41 assists)
Jarome Iginla: 14
And yet they don't have a large amount of guys who have played 48 games. The team was littered with injuries and still dominated the Eastern Conference in the second half of the season. When Evgeni Malkin has 9 goals, but the team led the NHL with 162 goals scored this season - it's a telling sign about depth.
Ah, depth. It's a funny thing how things shake out at the end of the season. Heading into the end of March, depth was an issue with Pittsburgh. Suddenly, Ray Shero does Ray Shero things and brings in Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jussi Jokinen and depth is no longer a problem.
I guess you can make a case for the Penguins defense being an issue, but even then they're 12th in the NHL is GA/G (2.48) and have missed their best shutdown defenseman in Paul Martin for most of the season.
If you want to search for a problem, you could look at Marc-Andrew Fleury, who posted a 2.39 GAA and a SV% of .916 - but even then you're talking about respectable stats. If he had Tuukka Rask like stats, this team may not have lost a game all season (kidding, maybe).
Oh yeah, there's also the Islanders in this match-up, but not for long.
Prediction: Penguins in 4
After the jump...the rest of the Eastern Conference...
Man, I can't believe it's finally here. This is, literally, the greatest time of the year. If you're a hockey fan, this is your Christmas. With the hours ticking away before the first slate of games are to be played tonight, we wanted to give everyone a look at both the Eastern and Western opening rounds. Tonight, Chicago/Minnesota, St. Louis/Los Angeles and Detroit/Anaheim will open their series against one another. Before the puck drops, lets look at the Western Conference:
(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (8) Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild have the displeasure of playing the best team in the NHL. You read that right, the best team in the NHL. The Blackhawks are probably the most balanced team heading into the playoffs in all phases of the game. Offensively they rank second in the NHL, scoring 3.10 goals per game. Their defense is ranked first in the NHL, giving up 2.02 goals per game. It's disgusting how good this team is.
The Blackhawks specialty teams? 19th in the NHL on the power play at 16.7% success. The penalty kill? Third in the NHL with 87.2% success at killing penalties. I'm shocked, actually, at how bad they are on the power play given their talent.
Goaltending? Not an issue. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have matching GAA at 1.94 (seriously). That makes them number six and seven overall in the NHL in that category. Crawford is 10th overall in save percentage among all goalies with a .926 clip.
With all this going on, you have to ask yourself if Minnesota has a chance?
Well, not really. I mean there's a chance that Minnesota wins a game or two at home, but I don't think they are good enough to steal a game in Chicago. Their road record is 12-11-1. The good news is that the Wild are top ten in scoring goals on the road in the NHL with 66 of them, but they also have given up 70.
Here's the thing with Minnesota - They are in the bottom half of the league (22) in goals per game with 2.46 and goals against per game (16) with 2.60. While they are good enough to squeak into the playoffs thanks to a Columbus loss on the last day of the regular season, I don't think they have the firepower to hang with Chicago.
Chicago is good, like Stanley Cup Finals good. Anything else for this team is a failure.
Last year we did something similar and it was a big hit, so I figured we would do it again. This time we're going to use NHL.com's bracket challenge. There are a few ways to join, the easiest is to go to click on the link below.
With the regular season finished and the Bruins ending it on a sour note, Bruins' General Manager Peter Chiarelli was lost. The black and gold seemed to be imploding on themselves, unable to hold a third period lead. Their defense was a mess, their offense was struggling and their fan voted "Seventh Player Award Winner" has been scratched more times than a Run DMC record.
He knew he had to make the call. He had to awaken the team that once found itself at the top of hockey's pedastle. He had to call:
It is no secret that Shawn Thornton is the greatest man who ever lived. He does more in a day than most of us do in a year. Usually we only get to see him in action during games, but recently Shawn Thornton let us follow him around for a day so we could see what a typical day in his life was like.
It was awesome.
After the jump.....A Day in the Life of Shawn "Wayne" Thornton.....
There are three days left in the regular season for the Boston Bruins, two if you're a fan of anyone else. With Montreal playing tomorrow night, a Habs loss and a Bruins wins in either of the two games guarantees the Bruins second place in the Eastern Conference. If Montreal wins tomorrow night, Boston needs to win one of the two games and at least head to overtime to lock up the division.
With all that said, I looked at http://www.sportsclubstats.com/ and their updated stats regarding the Bruins first round opponent. Based on all of their statisical data, here are the potential playoff opponents for the Bruins:
And after last night here's how the Eastern Conference shakes out:
While the statistics at Sports Club Stats believe that Boston will play Ottawa (and I'm sure the final game between Boston and Ottawa has a lot to do with it), if the playoffs started today the black and gold would have a rough series with New York.
That feels weird to say when the last 5 out of 6 games have been utter dogshit for the Bruins, but last night they looked like a hockey team. Not everyone was clicking and no, the top two scoring lines didn't produce a goal, but that's what happens when your depth really plays a pivotal role. I mean, we can dissect this game all we want and make excuses as to why Boston won.
Yes, it's Tampa Bay.
Yes, Boston is fighting for their division
Yes, Tampa Bay is currently 13th in the East
But based on the past 6 games, none of this should matter. What matters is that the Bruins grabbed two crucial points in a game they should have won, because Montreal also won last night. So hey, let's remain positive. Apparently all the Bruins needed was for me to tweet nice things about them yesterday, instead of the usual negative garbage that spews from my brain to my fingers to your eyeballs.
But I have no reasons to really complain about last night's game. Hell, even Lucic showed up.