Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Game 40 Preview: Wild @ Bruins SPECIAL EARLY EDITION

Jan 6, 2009 7:00 PM ET
TV: Versus
Radio: WBZ
vs. Minnesota Wild (19-16-3)
  • I'm a fan of both teams.
  • Minnesota just beat San Jose and took Detroit to a shootout. Otherwise, they aren't doing so hot. The leading scorer of previous years is out and likely never to return.
  • The Wild have trouble scoring, but are excellent at preventing goals. The Bruins and Wild are fighting for top spot in that stat column.
  • Sturm is having surgery on his knee. He'll be out indefinitely.
  • Minnesota not only had Jessie "The Mind" Ventura as governor, but they also just certified comedian Al Franken as Senator.
  • The Bruins have not beaten the Wild in Boston.  The Panthers are the only other team with a winning record at the Garden.
  • Neither Patrice nor Marc-Andre Bergeron are playing tonight.
  • Owen Nolan, Irish God of War, is playing tonight.
  • Aaron Ward is a game-time decision with a charley horse.
  • Fluto is saying most likely Manny in Net.
  • Andy Brickley will be doing Color commentary tonight.
  • Derek Boogaard is out with an upper body injury.  Shawn Thornton breathes a sigh of relief.
Previous Games:
Game 2: Bruins 3 Wild 4, Marc-Andre Bergeron scored. Link goes to the preview. It's got quite the analysis of Wild/Bruins over the years, too.

5 Questions with the enemy SPECIAL EDITION!
Helping out today are a few Folks. There's Wild Road Tripper (WRT) and on the Wild side of things, and because I'm a fan of both teams, I asked friend of the blog Greg Nation 5 questions about the Bruins.  Here's Wild Road Tripper, of Hitting the Post.
1) We're nearly halfway through the season. Who's been impressive?
WRT: Impressive? Three stand out:
A. Cal Clutterbuck (#22). He started the season out in Houston, and was brought up to give a physical presence to an otherwise wimpy frontline. He has done that, already registering enough hits in less than one-half a season to surpass the Wild franchise hit record (115).
B. Mikko Koivu (#9). Wild fans don't call this guy 'the Franchise' for nothing. He has indeed stepped it up a notch while the Gaborik saga has dragged on. On any other NHL team, he would be named permanent Captain.
C. Owen Nolan(#11). The 'Irish God of War' has scored four goals in his last 3 games since coming off the injured list at his own insistence New Year's Eve vs. San Jose. He is showing why the Wild invested $5.5 million over the next two seasons on him.
2) Gaborik. Crap. Do you think the Wild will get anything more out of him?
WRT: I point you to the rant I wrote on Sunday on the Hitting the Post blog. He's not coming back this season; he will not ever wear a Wild sweater again; and he would love to go to a more wide-open system, where he would be able to strictly 'cherry-pick' in the neutral zone, and never have to go within 65 feet of his own goal except after the final horn has sounded.

See ya later, Gaby.
3) You travel to many Wild away games, and have home season tickets. Is that awesome or totally awesome?
WRT: With the number of Wild games I see in person (50 this season alone) I have somewhat of a feeling of how players and the rest of the teams' travelling party feels like. For them, it's a real grind. Thank God, they get to fly charter. The rest of us are stuck with commercial flights, a lot of which are late and/or cancelled. Say what you will, but the NHL really needs to rethink how it schedules games. To ask anyone to play hockey in Southern California (or Florida) one night and in sub-zero Minnesota (or, Ottawa) 48 hours later is asking a lot. It's good and it's bad for me (and my wife) as our schedule is set so far in advance we normally get cheap air fares (cheaper after Southwest begins serving Minneapolis-St. Paul, March 6) but then we have very little flexibility to change our minds after we commit to a game. I know the B's don't have that much of a problem with it, but out here we are really screwed.
4) Who is most likely to be with the Wild next year: Riseborough, Lemaire, Backstrom, Gaborik, Skoula?
WRT: My best guess is that Lemaire will be here as long as Risebrough is, Gaborik is gone (no way in hell he comes back), Backstrom will probably sign somewhere else (hopefully I am wrong there, but DR doesn't seem to see any urgency in re-signing him, despite his great numbers), and we all hope and pray someone (preferably in the KHL) will take Skoula off our hands. He is absolutely worthless. Even he knows it. But Jacques thinks he's better than apple butter so he plods on, like the big oaf he really is.
5) Predictions for Tuesday's game?
WRT: The Wild always seem to do well vs. the Bruins. Their styles seem to make for great skating, up-and-down affairs. And, unlike the last time these two teams met in the Garden (I was there, BTW) this time it's the B's who have the momentum and the Wild are the team on the fringe looking in. Will Manny start? And, if he does, can Jacques get under his skin enough for him to lose his cool?
Once again, that's WRT from Hitting the Post. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Now, because I'll be wearing a Wild jersey to the game, here's friend of the blog Greg Nation, answering 5 Questions about the Bruins:
1. It's halfway through the season. Who has impressed so far?
A tough choice between Krejci and Kessel, but I'm going to have to go with Kessel. From the moment I first saw him play, I noticed he possessed an innate abundance of talent that will only continue to be refined into skill by experience. Even at his young age, his play is punctuated with flashes of brilliance and I expect he will grow quite a highlight reel over the course of his career.
2. After this year, there are 11 free agents, most notably Thomas and Fernandez as UFAs, and Krejci and Kessel as RFAs. Also, P.J. Axelsson's contract will be up. Which goalie do you keep?
Thomas because he puts up better numbers. I obviously think we should hang on to Kessel and Krejci since they have impressed so far, and as much as it pains me to say, P.J.'s time might be up. I like to think of him as the Mark Bellhorn of the bruins, I just hope the habs don't pick him up.
3. Which is worse: Bergeron getting another concussion or Sturm undergoing surgery?
That's a tough one. For surgery, we'll lose Sturm for the rest of the season but a concussion doesn't necessarily mean we'll lost Bergeron for very long. Looking at the bigger picture though, I don't think the Bergeron we're seeing this season is the same Bergeron that played prior to Randy Jones' cheap shot. Patrice is only 23 years old and probably has trouble remembering his name. As it seems that knee surgery for Sturm is inevitable, I say the Bruins should focus on bubble-wrapping Bergy's head.
4. Which Boston-area mascot is the best?
I hate mascots. In fact, everyone above the age of 5 does. They're stupid, cartoonish creations that detract from the seriousness of the sport. But, if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Boston Massacre Roller Derby's mascot, which appears to be a drunk guy in a lobster suit with a rifle.
Watch your back, Minnesota.
5: Predictions for tonight's game?
Shawn Thornton will score the first goal to everyone's, including his own, amazement. Owen Nolan will throw out his hip. The ice girls will throw me a free T-shirt. Sobotka will injure Brent Burns on a huge hit. Patrice Bergeron will get a concussion. Krejci's line will produce two goals. Kessel will score one goal. Bruins win, 4-1.

Thanks again to everyone above who answered!

Other Previews:
  • Here come the Bruins!: "they have some of the best names in hockey."
  • Bruins Blog: "Minnesota is one of only five teams that has defeated the Bruins in regulation this season."
  • Iron Ref Champ Stanley Cup of Chowder:The B's are 3-0-1 on Versus this season.
  • Bruins Hockey Blog: "Tonight, the Wild will be without star forward Marian Gaborik"  Oh, if only you knew....
  • Double A Hockey: Ways to beat the Wild.
  • The Bear Cave: "Minnesota is ranked 27th in the NHL with 96 goals scored, and has just two players on the roster with ten or more goals."
  • Matt Kalman: "Without injured forwards Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm, two members of the Boston Bruins’ top power play unit from the start of the season, the club went through a three-game stretch in late December where it went 0-for-12 with the man-advantage."
  • NESN First Shift: "Manny Fernandez (13-2-1, 2.02) vs. Niklas Backstrom (18-12-2, 2.21)"  It's like the Wild goalie rotation from 2 years ago!
  • Boston Herald: Thumbnails
  • boston.com: Thumbnails
  • bruins.nhl.com: GameDay | Preview | Game Notes (pdf)
Ok, I pretty much want both teams to win, if possible. And me to not get beat up at the game.