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West Coast Trip: Part 1 – Ducks

Jonas Hiller and the Ducks celebrateWhat a frustrating game last night.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Bruins are severely undermanned (not in quantity, but quality) and will need to be extremely opportunistic in order to win games. The inconsistency in the lines and the minor league call-ups on defense mean that the Bruins will invariably give up more opportunities than they generate, and when those chances come around, the Bruins NEED to bury them.

Overall, Boston had a strong game last night against a strong Anaheim team, but were just unable to put the puck in the net when they had to. Michael Ryder hit his 15,000th post this year and David Krejci was robbed in the crease — both in the 3rd. Games like last nights emphatically highlight the need on this team for a proven goal scorer who is actually producing goals at this time. Ryder is considered by some to be a “proven” goal scorer but hasn’t touched 30 goals for nearly four years.

Having said that, Boston just needs to focus on staying in playoff position until their injured stars return. I think that the Olympic break will do this team a world of good, since they have no real momentum that would be in jeopardy of dissolving at this point in time. They just need to heal up for the post-season.

Tonight, it’s off to San Jose to face Joe Thornton and the Sharks.

Perennially amongst the leagues elite (regular season) teams, tonight’s game should be a much tougher task than the one the Bruins left behind in Anaheim. Tim Thomas is slated to get the start. Dennis Wideman is day-to-day with Can’t-Hit-The-Net-itis — but seriously, he hurt his leg blocking a shot last night.

The only way to win tonight is to outhit and outwork San Jose, especially in front of the goaltenders, on both ends of the ice.

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A couple random notes leading up to the Winter Classic:

OK – At this point in the season, every team should have a full understanding of the depth and breadth of their squad; their deficiencies, strengths, and overall character. Time and again this season, the Bruins have proven themselves to be a very gritty squad. They simply don’t give up. I can only think of two games in which the Bruins failed to show up at all; opening night vs. Washington and their 5-1 loss at the rocking Centre Bell on Centennial night in Montreal. The Bruins have had trouble finding the back of the net this season, but they never seem to get too discouraged. They were rewarded for their positive attitude and hard work with a 4-0 domination of the poor Ondrej Pavelec and the Atlanta Thrashers (hopefully Kovalchuk likes what he sees in Boston…).

Since November 1, the Bruins are playing five games above .500 and have only lost twice by more than 2 goals in that span; and remember Milan Lucic missed nearly all of those games, in fact he’s only played in 10 all season. Lucic is not noted for his offensive prowess, but he is integral to the Bruins goal production. Over the past season and a half, the formula for the Bruins appears to be pretty simple; hit, hit, hit. When they bring a physical presence, they win. Without Phil Kessel and with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder struggling, the team is certainly less skilled than last years. Therefore, its more important than ever that the Bruins take a physical approach, and Milan Lucic is the one who must provide it. In Milan’s absence, Shawn Thrornton and Steve Begin have done a fine  in a stand-in role, but it’s clearly not the same. The aura around Lucic is unmistakable. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has said that he will not consider making any trades until Lucic has been back for a substantial amount of time so that he can evaluate his impact on the squad. Here’s hoping Lucic can return sometime next week.

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