Johnny Boychuk and Tuukka Rask have both resumed skating with the team, with Boychuk likely being back for the start of the playoffs. The team is keeping Tuukka’s status a bit more open by saying he is day to day, but not committing to him being the backup on Thursday night, or if Anton Khudobin gets the nod. Adam McQuaid continues to be a bit of a dilemma as well. The Bruins maintain he did not receive a concussion to go along with that cut that took 22 stitches to close, but say he is “not feeling right” and is still day to day. He has not been at practice this past week in preparation for the start of the playoffs and it looks like Corvo or Mottau will take his place if he cannot go.
In much more sad news, Nathan Horton has officially been shut down for the remainder of the season. While this is the correct move, it is a potentially damaging one. The B’s will now need someone, in particular Rich Peverley, to rise to the occasion and provide that timely scoring Nathan got us so many times throughout last years playoff run. In talking to Milan Lucic yesterday, I asked him what does he miss most about having Nathan out there on his line. He replied simply, “Everything.” Looch went on to say that Horton provides so much energy, skill, and toughness that not playing alongside him is a really hard adjustment. Looch remained confident that the team can find a way to provide the scoring they will need.
New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators
I am going to take the Rangers in 6, but I feel this will be a much harder series than a lot of people think. Not only did Ottawa win the season series 3-1 and outscore the Rangers pretty heavily, stylistically they are a tough matchup. They have engaging D men with speed and Karlsson provides quite the offensive boost. Alfredson and Spezza are great, dynamic, and very capable of catching fire. Add to that this may be Daniel’s last run, I think the whole team will be motivated to win this for the guy who has meant so much to that Franchise. The Sens also have some grit in Chris Neil, Zenon Kenopka, Chris Smith, and Nick Foligno. Ultimately, I think King Henrik wins this one for the Rangers.
Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals
I think Boston wins this one in 6, but is another series that is no walk in the park, or pahk as we say. Much like the Rangers series, Washington provides some question marks. Not only did the B’s also lose the season series 3-1, the Capitals offense can do damage to any team, on any night. I think Nicholas Backstrom will be the key to this series. If he is healthy it provides Washington with that third threat to go along with Ovechkin and Semin. If he is not healthy or 100%, then the Chara-Seidenberg pair will have a constant matchup with that first line. Hopefully McQuaid can go as his shut down ability is far superior to Corvo, Zanon, or Mottau. Goaltending should be an issue for Washington, with youngster Halbty probably starting. I think Pouliot and Seguin have a huge series.
Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils
For this game, it was a tossup, so I am just going with who sets up the next round best for the B’s, should they beat Washington. So I will take Florida in 7. There are story lines all over this one folks. The teams split the season series 2-2, Florida stumbling across the finish line winning just two of it’s last 10. While New Jersey, playing in a stacked Atlantic division, finished with over 100 points and on a 6 game winning streak. It is Florida’s great power play against New Jerseys potent penalty kill. I think special teams play a big part in this one. Can Brodeur make one last run of springtime magic? Does Kovulchuk finally show he was worth all that cash? How does Stephen Weiss’s first taste of playoff play go after 10 years in the league?
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
I hope they both lose, but for the sake of this article I will go with Philly in 7. In what is widely considered the most appealing opening round matchup, there is only one thing we know for sure. These teams HATE each other. I mean Canuck Bruin hate, maybe worse since they are in state rivals. The “Battle for Pennsylvania” opens up the quest for Lord Stanley tonight at 7:30. This is the one series that I do not even have to look at the regular season stats for, it literally does not matter at all. Sidney Crosby was not there for most of their contests and his contributions will be many I am sure. I know he always has a target on his back, but in this series he should bring his bullet proof shoulder pads. The Flyers are coming for him, and as we know, the Flyers tend to toe that line and quite enjoy their time in the grey area. These two organizations have great disdain for each other and do truly go about their business differently, from top to bottom. The Flyers are physical in your face hockey. They will punch your first and say what are you going to do about it. They will do it whether the refs are looking or not, and they won’t complain you are playing too rough. The Pens are that kid in school who hit you when the teacher wasnt looking, and then told the teacher when you hit him back. Mario did it as a player, and now he does it as a president. Dan Bylsma does it nightly from the bench. And Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin are the kings of noones looking physicality. No more apparent was this then the last “dust up” with Philly. They start a lot, extra slashes, rabbit punches to the head while riding guys, but they cry foul when it is done to them. Well Philly doesn’t care. They won’t back down and they won’t stop. The problem is, they put Pittsburgh on the PP a few times a night and they won’t win. If Pittsburgh manages to beat the Flyers, they won’t be in one piece, and they will have had a full round of beating to bring into their next series.
Stanley Cup Finals Matchup: Boston Bruins vs Vancouver Canucks
Stanley Cup Champions: Boston Bruins in 7
Conn Smythe: Milan Lucic