Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stanley Cup 2011, Round One

Key Bruins Players

The Bruins haven't won anything yet, except maybe the hearts and minds of the reporters who would never choose Montreal anyway.

If they are to beat Montreal, I'd expect some of these players to be key.

Nathan Horton

I wonder if Floridians trotted out the 2003 draft every time they saw Horton play. Heaven knows they could have. After all, all the same players were taken after him as Andrei Kostitsyn, but you could add 7 more.

Essentially Horton is a second fiddle, which is not what you want from a 3rd overall pick, but it suits Boston 8 years later just fine. Still, if Boston hope to dominate anything, their top line will have to be there for them. 26-goal man Horton will have to be there in his first playoff games ever after 500 inconsequential match-ups.

Tomas Kaberle

Kaberle is key for so many reasons. For one thing, he is the second defenceman on the team for a PP that will need to fire. For another thing, he represents the lot that has been thrown in for this playoffs, as a first rounder and another recent one made their way to Toronto.

Kaberle wasn't excellent since the trade from TO, but he has been excellent many times before against the Canadiens. It will be up to the Czech to take the load off Chara, who already has to carry most of the defending and Big Badness mantle. If Kaberle can't help Zdeno on the PP, neutral zone regrouping may be the least of the Bruins worries.

Patrice Bergeron

Patrice Bergeron looked like he might win me my pool this year. Ultimately, he ended up costing me in the end. One goal and a few points to close the season was poor. In fact, take away his Christmas to All-Star break flourish, and he's not outshining Gomez by as much as his numbers suggest.

And it won't be a surprise that Marchand and Recchi go down with their centre, just as they followed him in the season.

Patrice has the ability to be a playoff performer, as he's shown it in the past. But like Gomez, it won't be enough to live on reputation, a turnaround for the Bruins team will provide them the two lines they use to vaunt their depth.

Adam McQuaid

One of the potential greenhorns at the back end, he's impressed against the Canadiens with his grit and even his scoring on a couple of occasions. But that was a couple of regular season games we're talking about.

How McQuaid fares, or Kampfer, or whoever is D #6 will be critical to the Bruins, because a counterattack offense is not kind to weak links.

From what I've seen so far, I'd also mark him down as a temper risk. Playoff hockey can bring out some intense moments, and a series like Boston:Montreal is far worse in that regard. A young hothead sounds like a good idea on paper, but one can also tip a series the wrong way for his team if discipline is lost.

Michael Ryder

A player like Michael Ryder is currently keeping the highly touted Tyler Seguin (he that was nearly picked ahead of Taylor Hall for playoff/grit reasons) on the bench.

We've seen this from Julien before, when he benched Phil Kessel for being too talented as he watched his team lose to Carey Price without being able to score.

If Michael Ryder plays really well, he could be a thorn in Montreal's side. If he plays moderately well, however, he could do Montreal a big favour by staying in the lineup and costing Boston in their ultimate offensive potential. And if he plays badly too soon, he could inadvertently help his team by making the right lineup choice so much clearer.

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