With the B’s currently riding a 5 game winning streak, many of us are starting to feel pretty damn good about the state of affairs over on Causeway street. The team is looking fast, tough and extremely resilient; traits which were basically nonexistent last season.
So now we’re looking at 3 game Western Canadian roadie covering Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in a span of 4 days. Even for a Bruins team that looks forward to road trips more than Mötley Crüe in the 80’s (I’m starting to wonder what this group is getting into on the road), this is a daunting travel schedule. Despite all 3 teams struggling for consistency of late, they all have significant firepower and enough speed and skill to cause trouble for the B’s.
I’m looking at this trip as a very important mental test for this group. While they are certainly in the midst of a solid run it’s important for to avoid complacency and continue to play with a chip on their shoulder. Looking at momentum, a solid road trip can serve as a springboard into a tough 2 game stretch against Nashville and Montreal. Conversely, a lackluster performance out west could easily snowball during a busy December.
That said, let’s take a look at what lies ahead for the B’s out west.
Edmonton 12/2: Edmonton is exactly where many thought they would be. They’re very young and very talented up front which makes sense when you consider they’ve had the #1 overall pick 4 times since 2010 and have taken a forward each time. While this is obviously an aggressive and exciting tactic, they have completely neglected the backend. Let’s face it, things are pretty bleak if you have Andrej Sekera anchoring your top defensive pairing and Anders Nilsson and Cam Talbot are splitting time in net. Despite recent struggles this team does have the young talent to be a serious contender in years to come provided that “Money Bags”Chiarelli doesn’t overpay for grit and completely torpedo their cap (let’s be honest it’ll happen). This should be a fairly straightforward game for the B’s coming off a lot of rest. The key will be winning the matchups against the first 2 lines and hoping that Jordan Eberle (currently skating on the 3rd line) doesn’t decide to finally wake up during this one.
Calgary 12/4: The Flames are probably one of the biggest disappointments of the season to date. They’re absolutely loaded with young talent on both ends of the ice and have what many predicted to be one of the best defensive groups coming into the season. That said, things haven’t exactly panned out as predicted and they’re absolutely hemorrhaging goals and floundering around the bottom of the conference. A large part of this has been Dougie Hamilton’s inability to deliver anything close to the performances we saw during his time in Boston. Generally speaking this is a very young team lacking structure and positional discipline, with talented forwards and defensmen unwilling to do the necessary work in their own end required to win. Despite this, Calgary is still a very dangerous team with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan capable of opening up a Bruins defensive unit that is still very much developing. If this game becomes a wide open track meet the B’s will be in trouble.
Vancouver 12/5: No single team has done a better job at manufacturing widespread disdain amongst a fan base than the Vancouver Canucks of 2011. Obviously Vancouver is not a historic rival in the same way many would look at Montreal, The Rangers or Philly for example. Despite this, they were able to flop, chirp and bite their way into this group and this is now a game many fans and players alike circle on their calendars. This year’s team in the eyes of many is performing as expected. On paper this roster would be a dream 5 years ago, and while there’s certainly talent in the group, many (including the Sedin twins and Ryan Miller) may be phasing out of their prime years. Additionally they have been struggling of late and will be coming off a killer road trip covering Minnesota, Dallas, Anaheim and LA. Regardless of the current form of either team this should be a high energy (building should be buzzing) and very even matchup between 2 teams who will likely be right around the playoff bubble come spring. The key in this game will be maintaining defensive focus positionally and limiting the turnovers typically associated with tired legs.
While I’d love to say the B’s will come back from this trip on an 8 game streak with 6 more points in the bag, that’s simply not realistic. I look at the Vancouver game on Saturday night as the slip up. At this point the team will have been on the road since Monday, playing on the backend of a back to back following what will undoubtedly be an uptempo game with Calgary. I think this could have a major effect on Z and Seids in particular (neither seem to perform well in the 2nd game of back to backs), bringing down what has proven to be a fragile defensive equilibrium. While they could certainly salvage a point (or 2) in this one, I don’t see it happening and predict a tough loss in the final game of trip bringing back a very solid 4 points.
As always get in touch with us on Twitter @bruinsextra or reach me directly @mccarey18