After opening the season in Europe, the Boston Bruins will play their first North American game of the year in New Jersey. The Devils are 1-3-1 and look nothing like the team which scored 103 points and finished second in the Eastern Conference last season. So what can we expect from tonight's game?
Tuukka Rask gave up four goals in the first game in Prague. Tim Thomas had a shutout a night later. That should make the decision for the third game of the season a no-brainer. However, Rask played with basically no defense ahead of him and was really only culpable for one of the goals he gave up. Thomas, on the other hand, played behind a solid defensive performance from the B’s, who didn’t give the Coyotes many clean-cut scoring opportunities.
Thomas was good, but then again he never needed to be great. This is perhaps a bigger game for Thomas than any other Bruin, and he needs to deliver consistently if he wants to keep his nose in front of his young rival.
If turnovers make you feel physically ill, the first two periods of the season opener would have been completely unwatchable. The Bruins were hesitant, indecisive and often looked lost in the neutral zone. Their defense played too high on many occasions, and if it hadn’t been for the heroics of Rask, the team could have been staring at an historic rout.
In game two, they were better, but they were so awful on Saturday, it has to be a cause for concern.
Of all the players who gave two different performances in the Czech Republic, no one showed a more drastic improvement than Matt Hunwick. After finishing a team-worst minus-three in game one, he led the Bruins with a plus-two the following night. He also had two shots on goal and was one of the team’s better players at the back, moving the puck well. He was barely noticeable—the highest compliment one can pay him.
Last year, the Bruins were a lowly 23rd in the NHL on the power play, scoring just 16.6 percent of the time. In Prague, the struggles continued as the B’s were just one for eight. Claude Julien used a few different combinations with the man advantage, however, so it will be interesting to see if that continues on Saturday—or if Julien can find a more effective line.
Which Bruins team shows up?
The Bruins team we saw on Sunday night could make a good run at the Stanley Cup. The night before, they would have been slaughtered by anyone in the league. Somewhere between the two performances should be good enough to beat a Devils team which has struggled so far. With this team, though, it’s not a guarantee.