On Thursday the Bruins return home from playing a road trip on elongated mass of land to face the Ottawa Senators. Coming of the heels of a 36 save 1 goal effort from Tuukka Rask, the Bruins, must be sure to pick up their play on the defensive end. With two first place teams in Tampa Bay and Montreal coming in for a back to back over the weekend, the B’s have to be careful not to overlook an underrated Senators team that has the same number of points as the Bruins (in four more games).
1) Can the Bruins solve Craig Anderson?
Anderson, especially for the regular season is playing on another planet. The American journeyman leads the league in both goals against (1.49) and save percentage (.952!). Anderson is doing all of this while carrying a 2nd place team that is ranked 26th in goals per game, and the 17th rated powerplay. While it may be premature to say that the Senators are the greatest threat to take the division, goalies like Anderson have given the Bruins fits. In last years playoffs, Braden Holtby burst onto the playoff scene as so many unknown goalies have before him (Patrick Roy, Jean-Sebastian Gigure, Cam Ward, the list is pretty long). Even though it is only a regular season game, the Bruins offense should use this as an opportunity to fix kinks in their offense against playoff caliber goaltending.
2) Is this game an audition for Daniel Alfredsson?
As ESPN’S Pierre Lebrun mentioned last week, Boston has been mentioned at the top of the list of landing spots for the Senators Captain. Alfredsson has one year left on his contract, and would be an ideal fit in with a Bruins team that could always use a veteran forward who knows how to score in the playoffs. Even though Alfredsson’s cap number is estimated at a 4.875 million (typical for a franchise icon at the end of a big contract), the Bruins trade of Tim Thomas should allow them to absorb his figure well under the hard salary cap. The real cost to the Bruins however, is what they would have to give up in a trade. Assuming the Senators fade from the playoff hunt, they would presumably become sellers come the trade deadline. That being said, is Alfredsson worth the potential first round pick that the Senators might demand? Only Peter Chiarelli knows the answer to that question, as he tries to juggle the teams future with it’s rampant desire to win now.
3) Can Tuukka keep up his hot streak?
Coming of possibly his best performance of the season, Rask firmly landed in the top five in both goals against average and save percentage. If there was ever any doubt about how Rask would perform in the regular season, the young Finn has certainly quieted even the most cynical of Bruins fans. While Rask seems determined to achieve greater playoff success, it certainly doesn’t help that he is essentially in a contract year. Rask is owed 3.5 million this year, which should be enough money to keep his mind on the ice. While Rask will ultimately be judged on how he performs come May, it certainly doesn’t hurt him, or the Bruins that he’s playing like a man with a lot to prove.
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