The Boston Bruins host the San Jose Sharks tonight at the TD Garden at 7:08PM. The Sharks are one of the elite teams of the Western Conference and have all kinds of things to prove this season. Their two primary areas of weakness are depth of defense and is their goaltending truly elite .
Whenever the Sharks come to Boston the number one focus is Joe Thornton, the former cornerstone player of the Bruins. Thornton recently scored his 1200 career point and should be on track for serious consideration for future Hall of Fame consideration. What holds his nomination back is that over his career, has hasn't won anything in the playoffs and some question his ability to be a leader on the ice and in the locker room. When eliminated last year as a team by the Los Angeles Kings in a seven game series where they had scored 15 goals in the first three games and held a 3-0 lead in the series; the enduring image was that of Thornton on the bench with the 1000 yard stare of disbelief and pain of defeat. While the Sharks shook things up behind the scenes by stripping the Captaincy off their players and calling them out, little else was don except shuffling some aging defensemen off the team.
The Sharks are a scary, big, fast, physical team that can shovel goals into an opponents net faster than an old school fireman on a steam locomotive. They have two lines of high quality power play weapons that can tic tack toe and score on you. They have some goons on the squad as well, currently led by old pal John Scott, who just a year ago diminished the entire season for Loui Eriksson. Their weakness is scoring depth and ability on their third and fourth line and getting past their third pair of defensemen. Todd McLelland wants wins and plays a short bench three line, game most night and has a fourth line goon attack that only sees the ice when nothing else is working.
Keyes to the Game: Stay out of the penalty box, Third and fourth lines must chip in on scoring as the first two lines job tonight is to play even with the Sharks top two lines. The best way to slow down the Sharks is to get early power play opportunities and bury goals on them. When they worry about their defense and going to the penalty box, they slow down their game making it easier to contain them. This would be an excellent game for Fraser with his size to play with Krejci and Lucic as a containment line, allowing Gagne to play with Paille and Campbell for speed and scoring opportunities. When the Kings beat the Sharks, they moved Mike Richards down to the fourth line to provide scoring depth and that line came through on possession and goals and the Sharks didn't have an answer to it.
Concerns: Trying to stay with the Sharks speed and crash game will take it's toll on our defense. Taking silly penalties and trying to rough up the Sharks will play to their advantage. The Bruins need to shoot from everywhere after the first pass in the offensive zone as the Sharks are not good shot blockers and more shots means more chances against a team that likes control of the puck.
Extra: The Bruins could play their heart out tonight and lose 3-2 or get slammed 7-1. The Sharks are hungry after losing their first game 4-0 against the Rangers.
Until Next Time!