Tonight the Bruins face off against the New Jersey Devils at the TD Banknorth Garden at 7 ET. Both teams sit at the top of the conference, and will each try and avoid their first loss in regulation of the season. Here a few key storylines for the Bruins entering tonight's game.
1) The Continued Rise of Dougie Hamilton:
With 4 points in his first five NHL games, the decision to keep Hamilton with the big club was a no brainer. At just 18 years old, Hamilton has logged significant minutes, added a unique offensive dimension to an overly defensive-minded blue-line, and most importantly, he has earned the trust of head coach Claude Julien. Hamilton’s game-winning assist to David Krejci in last night’s game against the Hurricanes is just the latest example of the defensemen’s precocious ability to manifest himself in the game’s most critical situation. As the NHL season continues, it will be interesting to see if Hamilton’s game can keep up his shocking level of productivity. If he can, the Bruins may have finally ended their search for the heir apparent to Ray Bourque that has eluded them for nearly a decade.
2) Will the Bruins be able to solve Martin Brodeur and the Devils defense?
While many experts have continued to predict the demise of the Devils, it seems as though they all will have to wait another year. Led by the immortal Martin Brodeur, the Devils boast the second fewest goals against, and the leagues fifth best penalty kill. While the Bruins offense has been consistent (3.2 goals per game), the team’s power-play remains as stagnant as ever. While unit the did produce an encouraging 2-4 outing against the Hurricanes in last nights contest, the level of consistency must continue to increase if the team is going to be highly successful going forward.
3) Will last night’s empty netter bust Tyler Seguin out of his slow start?
For this offense to thrive, the answer will have to be yes. Given Seguin’s blazing start in the Swiss A National League, expectations for the 20 year-old were as high as any Bruins player in recent memory. You would have to go back to Joe Thorton’s second full season to find a Bruins player this exciting, and Thorton was primarily a pass first player. For years Bruins fans have yearned for a dynamic forward who could stretch the ice and give goalies nightmares for weeks. While Seguin clearly appears to be that guy, his production hasn’t exploded quite yet this season. Given that goals might be hard to come by aginst New Jersey, tonight would be an ideal opportunity for Seguin to have a monster game.
4) The effect of the NHL schedule.
For this game, the NHL scheduling office certainly could give the Bruins trouble for several reasons.
-First of all, the game is the second of a back-to-back. The first of the team’s two games was played all the way down in Carolina, after which the team had to fly all the way back up to Boston. Meanwhile, the Devils had a day off after their game with Montreal.
-The Devils currently sit in third in the Eastern Conference, and like the Bruins, have yet to lose a game in regulation. The Devils only overtime loss came in their most recent game against the Canadiens. For the Bruins, drawing a good team on the 2nd game of a back-to-back who just came off a loss, and had an extra day of rest borders on criminal.
- Other than the teams opening night win over the Rangers, all of the Bruins wins have been riddled with uncharacteristically sloppy play. Giving up two goal leads, turning the puck over, and needing heavy production from the fourth line are not recipes for success in the NHL. The hope is that the Bruins inconsistent play is a function of the lockout, and not a break from the team’s recent tradition of playing a focused and disciplined form of hockey. Given that the Devils play a similar style of hockey, the Bruins will have to pick up the intensity if they hope to pick up a W.
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