Can the Big Z lead the B’s back to the top?

At first glance, there has not been much to like about this NHL restart if you are a Boston Bruins fan. The former #1 team in the Eastern Conference and President’s Trophy winners have lost both their seeding games and at best are looking at the #3 seed with a win and the #4 seed with a loss. Nevertheless, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for Bruins. They played an ok game against the Flyers, who appear to have found their stride the quickest. The 4-1 scoring line in that game doesn’t reflect how well Carter Hart played in goal for the Philly and how Halak (not Rask in net) wasn’t at the top of his game on that night. Most concerning, the Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand line did not look sharp here. Minus 2.

Against Tampa, the Bruins had a really slow start, but showed some life and a good push back to tie the game up at 2 after being down 2-0 early. Like in the Flyers game the 4th line looked great. Chris Wagner scored for the 2nd game in a row to go along with 6 hits, and Charlie McAvoy lit the lamp from the backend. Rask looked good in net and this looked like more of a positive step forward as the games and intensity ramps up. The top line looked better, with Pasta firing 5 shots. Good sign there.

Today’s game against the the Washington Capitals will be be very interesting to watch. They have had 3 days of to practice and work on the PP that is 0-7 the last two. Keep an eye on special teams, which I think will be an absolute key in these playoffs. We will also see Ondrej Kase for the 1st time as he slots in along side Krejci and DeBrusk and Kuhlman sits this one out. If Kase can make a strong case (ahem) to lock down this wing spot (finally!) this would go along way in helping the B’s run in this unusual playoffs. Watch him closely. Also keep a close eye on another Bruins trade deadline pick up, Nick Ritchie, who can bring the physical game needed for long playoff runs, but has looked slow and a step behind early. Maybe a bit too David Backes like? Bruins d-man Jeremy Lauzon also gets the slot on the 3rd pairing with Connor Clifton again, after some tremendous physical play in the 1st two games. I love having him in the lineup.

The Caps will be without John Carlson and likely Nicklas Backstrom, but both these teams are in need of some positive momentum heading into the “real playoffs”. The loser will face the Carolina Hurricanes (whom the Bruins swept in last years playoffs) and the winner gets the Barry Trotz coached New York Islanders. Both teams have looked good in their opening series and will pose a huge challenge should the Bruins not find their form today and in the practices going forward.

I look for the Bruins to take a step forward today and take advantage of slightly depleted Capitals team (who may not be thrilled to face their former Stanley Cup winning coach from 2018 anyway). Win or lose, there are a lot of key aspects to watch here from the top line, Kase on the 2nd line…Ritchies play on the 3rd line, and how Lauzon and Clifton work again on the 3rd pairing. Also, always good to see how Tuukka looks between the pipes as we all know just how key that is and probably more so in these playoffs.

Prediction Bruins win 3-1.


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