tclakin

Bruins Game 4. A Must Win?

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2009 at 5:19 pm
Time for the B's to put their foot down

Time for the B's to put their foot down

The question is this: Is tonight’s Game 4 against the Carolina Hurricanes a must-win for the Bruins? As in, if they lose tonight will the momentum have simply swung so far over to the Canes that the series is, essentially, over? 

I say no. But I say no only because the Bruins come back to Boston on Sunday and the momentum of a series can always be recovered at home. But, other than that, this game tonight is about as close to a must-win as possible without actually being a Game 7. For two games now, the Bruins have looked lifeless, they’ve looked flat, and – worst of all – they’ve looked like a team that could potentially lose this series. 

That is a scary thought for a team and a fan base that entered the playoffs as a one seed with a legitimate shot at the you-know-what. Perhaps it’s the pressure of the first Bruins Round Two appearnce since 1999, maybe it’s the Hurricanes tremendous neutral zone trapping, or maybe the B’s are just tired (let’s hope not). But whatever it is, the Bruins need to come out tonight and play like the team that dominated during the regular season and swept the Canadiens in Round One. 

And the fact is, this game is extremely winnable – for a number of reasons. 

1). The Bruins have it in them to play physically, to muscle the Canes off the puck and to set the tone of the game with strength. They’ve gotten away from this in the last two games, primarily because the Canes refuse to engage them. Carolina is a finesse team and they have been successful in getting the Bruins to play on their cupcake level. Tonight has to be different. The Bruins’ single biggest advantage against the Hurricanes comes in the physicality department and if they win tonight, they are going to win on the forecheck. The importance of the forecheck in this series cannot be ignored. Lucic has to come out flying in the offensive zone tonight because if he does, he’ll rattle the Canes’ defenseman and open up the ice for our scorers. Someone has to set the tone for the much-needed momentum swing and who better than Lucic? Of course, I wouldn’t be suprised to see good old Sugar 22  out there looking to drop the gloves. The sad thing is, I highly doubt the Canes would even accept the invitation. That’s how soft they are. 

2.) Cam Ward. Sure, he’s been very solid throughout this series. He’s made a couple great saves and he’s successfully shut the door on the Bruins scorers (although I would give more credit to the Canes trap that I would to Ward). But here’s the thing – he’s vulnerable! He gives up tons of rebounds, long and short, that scoot out in front of the crease just waiting to be smoked into the net. He does this consistently, and it’s something the Bruins have to take advantage of. Instead of the fancy, dink and dunk strategy the Bruins have been employing throughout the last two games, tonight they simply need to dump the puck in the offensive zone, rip shots and crash the net for rebounds. If Ward plays like he has so far, this will work. 

3). The Canes neutral zone trap can be beat. Rather easily, in fact. It starts with the Bruins cleaning up their sloppy play in the defensive zone. This isn’t just the fault of the defensemen – it’s everyone. For some reason, the Bruins have decided to rely on one guy bringing the puck up and then hitting a winger with a two-line pass. It’s a lazy strategy and it has resulted in easy Hurricane goals. The Bruins need to protect the puck. Their breakout has to involve more guys, ensuring that the puck gets up the ice safely. Bring a couple wingers back and let them help escort the puck up ice. It’s really not that hard and if the Bruins figure this out, breaking the Cane trap and getting out of the neutral zone will no longer be a problem. Let’s hope Claude is a Game 6 reader. (analysis comes courtesy of my roommate, John, who knows a lot more about hockey than I do. Maybe he should give Claude a call…)

4). The Power Play. So far this series, the Bruins are 0-9 with a man advantage. This is a huge reason they lost the last two games, and it also happens to be an issue that can be fixed. I am sure that the PP will be one of Claude Julien’s main focuses today and I fully expect the Bruins to solve the problem tonight if they are given the chance. They are a good Power Play team and have been for much of the season. The Canes didn’t suddenly solve the Huge Mystery that is the Bruins. They’ve played a couple games in a row with more heart than the Bruins have – that’s it. Look for the Bruins to come out tonight and clean it up on the PP – make a few crisp passes, set something up and get a goal. It’s about time. 

The bottom line is this: If the Bruins come out strong on the forecheck, work a good Power Play, and take advantage of Ward’s propensity for rebounds, they will win Game 4. And if they win convincingly enough and swing the momentum back in their favor, they should win Games 5 and 6 too. 

So, is tonight’s game a must-win? 

Sure it is. For the Hurricanes.

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