Tonight on NBCSN’s weekly, Wednesday night edition of “Rivalry Night”, they will finally feature the Boston Bruins going up against an actual rival. Tonight, they’ll take on a team they have faced on the ice more than any other opponent in NHL history.
Instead of playing the lowly Buffalo Sabres, the Bruins will head to Montreal to take on the Canadiens at one of the loudest and most annoying venues in all of professional sports. I may dislike listening to the crowd at the Bell Centre more than I hated hearing those vuvuzelas during the World Cup in South Africa, maybe thats a little rough but sorry I’m not sorry.
With that said, this age-old rivalry will feature some new blood tonight and it will do nothing but make things between these two heated rivals that much more interesting.
Any Bruins fan worth their salt knows who Thomas Vanek is, in fact you probably see him in your worst nightmares. He’s that guy that use to be stuck in purgatory (aka Buffalo and Long Island), before being sent to Montreal at this year’s trade deadline in a lopsided, last minute deal.
Vanek’s also that guy who has 61 points (30 goals, 31 assists) in 53-games against the Bruins, those impressive numbers go alongside a sparkling +21 rating. I find those numbers both shocking and upsetting and the Bruins should too, but I digress.
As you can obviously see by now, Vanek’s no stranger to playing well against the B’s and now that he’s playing for the Bleu Blanc Rouge, that target on his back should be just a tad bigger. Also, it was rumored the B’s were aggressively pursuing Vanek at the deadline, whether that’s true or not I’m not entirely sure, they may have just been trying to drive the price tag on him up but that obviously didn’t work. Either way, it’s yet another story line in a rivalry that already has more story lines than a cheesy, mid-day soap opera.
Looking to try and slow Vanek down will be new Bruins defenseman, Andrej Meszaros. Kidding by the way, while I like Meszaros and his game, he isn’t a shutdown defenseman. But he certainly can get the play headed in the other direction and he has a cannon of a shot, so there’s that.
For all his offensive prowess however, Vanek can be exploited in his own end and thats where guys like Meszaros, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara can hurt the Canadiens (Dougie Hamilton will be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row). And yes, I just said a guy with a +21 rating was a defensive liability.
If the B’s want to keep Vanek off the board and come out of Montreal with a win they’ll need to play sound defensively, make clean and quick break outs, then hop into the offensive play when they can to get as much rubber on Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj. Also, limit the turnovers, those tend to turn into goals rather quickly.
I know, all that is much easier said than done but that’s why its called a “game plan”. Sometimes a good player is just better and beats you, but for the Bruins tonight, the best offense will be a good defense (that leads to offense).