For the third straight game, the Bruins take on a team from the "great" state of New York. The Bruins are coming off yet another loss to the Rangers, in which they scored three third period goals to tie up the game, only to go on to lose in a shootout. While it was an encouraging sign to see some fight in a team that looked like it was taking a night off (at home no less), the Bruins lack of offensive consistency should be a cause for concern, one that they certainly hope to rectify at a surprisingly competitive Sabres squad up in the upstate.
1) Can the Bruins find offensive consistency?
While it was exciting for Bruins fans and announcers (looking at you Jack Edwards) for the Bruins to nearly pull of a stunning three goal comeback against the Rangers on Tuesday night at the Garden (they lost 4-3 in a shootout), the team left fans wondering where that dramatic offensive production was for the first two and a half periods. While Brad Marchand and David Krejci have produced strong starts (Krejci’s in particular being a relief), the inconsistency of the Bruins offense as a whole is becoming a cause for concern. While the lockout shortened season may provide some teams with new coaches, players, and systems an excuse for inconsistent play, none of these excuses are going to fly in Boston. Given the Bruins offensive skill and past production of it’s top six forward, the teams mediocre 5 on 5 offense ranks a middling 12th in the league with a pedestrian 2.7 goals per game. If the offensive production doesn’t become more consistent, the Bruins will be finding themselves clawing for points in extra time, or even worse settling for just one.
2) A Tale of Two Units: the Power Play vs. the Penalty Kill.
Saying that the B’s are inconsistent on the power play would be a flat out lie. The Bruins power play has been non-existent. The Bruins extra-man unit currently ranks an appalling 30th in the league at with an appaling conversion rate of just 9.3 percent. The Bruins penalty kill however has proven to be just the opposite. Anchored by Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, along with excellent two-way forwards such as a Patrice Bergeron (the 2012 Selke award winner for the league’s best defensive forward), Brad Marchand, as well as Rich Peverly and Chris Kelly, the unit exemplifies everything that the Bruins stand for. The two units combined give the Bruins a decidedly mediocre special teams play. It isn’t unrealistic for fans to expect similar results for similar results for the teams man-down unit for the rest of the year (barring injuries). The power play however, might be a different story. The struggles of that group had their seeds planted in the first-round series against Washington (3-21, including three power plays in Game 7). If the unit continues to struggle, Bruins fans can expect another first round exit coming April.
3) Will Tuukka Rask be sharper on shorter rest?
Rask continues to insist that rust didn’t factor into his 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers on Tuesday, but one has to wonder. Before the game against the Rangers, Rask’s last action was last Wednesday against the Canadiens (in which he played well in a 2-1 win). Rask was scheduled to start on that Saturday against Tampa Bay, but the game was snowed out. Backup Anton Kudobin gave Rask another day off Sunday in a 3-1 win against the Sabres. With the exception of the 7-4 loss to the Sabres, Rask has been playing at a very consistent level. His goals against and save percentage are each in the top ten in the league, and he has been the rock both on the penalty kill and when the Bruins have played poorly. He has undoubtedly been the calming presence that everyone hoped he would be when Tim Thomas announced he would be taking a year off (Thomas has since been traded to the Islanders). In a divisional game, look for Rask to put together a complete game against a traditionally competitive divisional rival in the Sabres.
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