This sets up for a fun game. The Red Wings are struggling offensively of late, scoring four total goals in their last four games. The Bruins are coming off an intense 8-6 win over the Montreal Canadiens, a game with 182 penalty minutes. Tim Thomas doesn't like giving up goals, let alone six of them. Pissed Tim Thomas + ineffective Red Wings offense = likely bad result.
But that doesn't mean you should go ahead and chalk this up as a loss, folks. Pavel Datsyuk has been in top form since returning and I don't think he's enjoying this losing business. Add in a healthy(ish) Tomas Holmstrom and Dan Cleary and the Wings are primed and ready for an offensive outburst. However, I'm sure we can all agree that we'd rather see a 2-1 game out of the defense instead of the offense bailing it out in a 7-5 one. This is a huge series this weekend as the Wings will have a very tough test in playing the Bruins twice, while the Predators close the gap in the Central.
The Bruins are at the top of the Northeast division, with 69 points. The win over the Canadiens was big as it bumped their lead to three points, whereas a loss would have put the Habs in first place. In their last 15 games, the Bruins are 10-4-1 and have outscored their opponents 58-35--thanks to six games with 6+ goals scored (including two seven spots and the eight they hung on the Habs). The Bruins offense has quietly been overlooked thanks to the play of Tim Thomas but they are nothing to mess with and are 5th in the league in goals for per game. The B's have 8 goalscorers in double digits and a few that are close to cracking it.
Back to Tim Thomas for a second, he's helping the Bruins to the league's best goals against per game. His GAA is at a career-low 1.80 and his save percentage is at .945. He has a bit of an unorthodox style in net and likes to scramble but it works pretty damn well for him I'd say. He'll be a tough nut for the Wings to crack and he's capable of putting up big save numbers to help his team.
- Jimmy Howard will start in net again tonight. Jimmy was yanked from the last game after allowing four goals on 16 shots. Like mentioned in recap/CSSI, maybe only one (if any) can be pinned on Howard. But like a few have mentioned, if the defense keeps playing like this we're going to need Jimmy to steal us a game every now and then. It also sucks for the idiots around the league that see the boxscores and make statements about his play instead of seeing how the goals happen. Let's hope Jimmy gets back on the road to being a stud in net.
- Zdeno Chara has a wicked hahd slayp showt. Sorry Bostonians, I had to.
- Pavel Datsyuk is getting his game back that's for sure. I know he didn't have the stats in the Nashville game that he did in the New York game, but his legs are looking better and he looked strong against Nashville. I think you sometimes benefit when you lose a guy like this to injury (yes, really) because he's back and ready to kick some ass after sitting out. It gives a little spark to the rest of the guys that have been in the line-up each night and are grinding through the season.
- Milan Lucic leads the Bruins in goals with 23 and he has 81 minutes in the box to go along with it. Lucic is the ideal power forward as he can score well, work the corners and knock you into next week. At 6'3, 228 lbs he's a big, powerful force on offense and he's someone the Wings need to watch carefully.
- One player I wish the Bruins still had is Vladimir Sobotka. I really liked watching that guy play and yeah, I can do that now that he's in St. Louis but forget that.
- Tyler Seguin (2nd overall pick, 2010 NHL Draft) sat out against the Canadiens on Wednesday. With all the penalty minutes and rough stuff, maybe it was good. Not sure if he'll play tonight but he's definitely shown he's got a lot of upside (2nd overall picks normally do) and has contributed 8 goals and 9 assists in 51 games.
- Plain and simple, to win the Wings need to work harder. They've done a good job the past few games of creating offensive chances but there have been numerous times where they've been out-hustled. I think it's a case of the mid-season grind as well as just one of those slumps that every team goes through. If they work hard tonight and create open ice for themselves in the offensive zone instead of playing mostly along the boards, they should be able to get some quality chances on Thomas. To go with that though, every pairing of defensemen has to be sharp and aware of where the puck is. Far too many times in the past few games I've seen defenders completely unaware of where the puck is and it turned into a goal or shot on goal. Better work ethic, better defense, better result.
- Score Prediction: 4-2 Boston. You know, after doing the research on the Bruins and watching some clips, it's going to be hard to pick against them with the way the Wings have been playing. Now, if the Wings were playing very well like at the beginning of the season, I wouldn't even hesitate to put the win in Detroit's stat line but it may be tough sledding for the Wings this weekend.
- Player of the Game Prediction: Pavel Datsyuk. He's getting better and better after coming back it seems and I think he'll have a great night.
- Around the League: All of the games were a one-goal differential, with all but one going to OT/SO. The Flyers topped the Canes 2-1, Kovalchuk scored in OT to secure the win for the Devils--putting their record to 11-1-2 in the last 14 games, Jordan Staal scored the game-winner for the Penguins over the Kings,
- For discussion: Don Cherry called out Andrew Ference for his remarks about teammate Daniel Paille's hit on Raymond Sawada. Ference mentioned that the hit was bad (it was) and Cherry called him out for it since it was about a teammate. What say you? Was Ference out of line or was it okay?