The Lightning will work hard tonight to bring the Bruins to their knees as both fight to reclaim the top spot in their Divisions. - Elsa
The Bruins are here and ready to get back to the top of the Northeast, a position usurped by the Montreal Canadiens who have been playing frequently and winning exclusively of late. I checked in with Sarah Connors, Stanley Cup of Chowder's Managing Editor, to see how the Northeast Division race is sorting itself out, that ridiculous top line, and who's the biggest surprise on the team at the quarter pole?
A couple weeks ago, the Lightning were in Boston during the Blizzard of the Century and, while that February 9th game was rescheduled for April, we still posted our three questions story that introduced us to "Bruins: 2013 edition". I encourage you to take a look here if you missed it - insight from the day following the Tim Thomas trade and where the cap space will go.
A big thank you for Sarah who took the time to answer our questions about the state of the team today.
1. When the season began, many felt like the Northeast Division was Boston's for the taking. Now Montreal is in first place and the Leafs are also holding their own despite the absence of Joffrey Lupul who should be back in another 3 or 4 weeks. Until the injuries took over, Ottawa also also looked poised for a great season. What say you? How certain are you that the Bruins will win the Northeast now?
Yeah, it's pretty crazy how good Montreal and Toronto look, isn't it? It's actually been super frustrating to stand by and watch those two teams keep playing games for the last two weeks, while Boston somehow has only had six games so far this month. The Bruins have the same number of points as Toronto right now but have played four fewer games; they're three points back of Montreal but....again, have three games in hand on the Habs.
I'm worried, actually. The Bruins' schedule is not about to get any easier - there's only one more time this season that they have two days off in a row, with two months to go. The only nice thing about the soft schedule they've had in February is that it's made it easier for the minor injuries on the team to not really be a huge factor - aside from that, geez, yeah, we're ready to start catching up to the rest of the league in terms of games played.
2. That top line of Nathan Horton - David Krejci - Milan Lucic is downright scary for its combination of skill and grit. Have you seen any opposing defensemen pairings or team strategy that has been able to shut them down for a game?
Yep, there have been a few teams that have successfully neutralized this line. Luckily, it seems that teams that focus solely on the HuLK line seem to forget about our 1B line of Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin, who are just as scary on any given night. Unfortunately for you guys, Milan Lucic is back in the lineup after missing a game for personal reasons on Sunday - Horton - Krejci - Peverley just doesn't seem to induce the same fear in other teams that that line with Lucic is able to.
Additionally, Claude Julien has shown that he isn't afraid to switch things around a little when defenders are able to successfully shut down that top line - for part of the game against the Canadiens two weeks ago, he actually swapped Horton out for Seguin, which resulted in two quick goals. Sacrificing a bit of grit for a LOT of speed seemed to work out pretty well in that case.
3. Which Bruins player has surprised you most (good or bad) so far this season?
In terms of skaters, no one, really. The top two lines have looked solidly great, the third line is 2/3 excellent (Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley are great third-liners, Chris Bourque is pretty bad) and the fourth line is the fourth line. On D, what you see is what you get - the hype for Dougie Hamilton was justifiably warranted, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are steady as always (although Chara has made a few uncharacteristic lapses this season, which has been a bit odd), and Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, and Andrew Ference are what they are. I guess I'd have to say backup goalie Anton Khudobin - his few appearances in net have gone better than anyone expected, I think.
Now that you're done with the pre-game Q and A with Stanley Cup of Chowder, head over and read our own responses to their questions.