Back Check with the Bruins Buff

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Game #52 Preview -- Bruins @ Senators

Game #52 Preview
(1) Boston Bruins: 38-8-6
(13) Ottawa Senators: 17-25-7

Thursday, February 5, 2009
Homa Arena: Scotiabank Place
Season Series: Boston Leads 2-0
TV Broadcasts: NESN (HD), RDS (HD), TSN (HD)

Boston Injuries

(D) Matt Hunwick -- Day-to-Day
(W) Milan Lucic -- Day-to-Day
(LW) Marco Sturm -- Out For Season

Ottawa Injuries

(RW) Shean Donovan -- Indefinite
(C) Cody Bass - Indefinite

Who's Hot For the Bruins?

(D) Dennis Wideman -- Points in seven straight games, league-leading +32 rating
(C) David Krejci -- 14 points in last 12 games, +3 rating in last performance
(C) Marc Savard -- 15 points in last 15 games, Four goals in last five performances

Who's Hot For the Sens?

(G) Alex Auld -- 1.89 goals against average and .923 save percentage in last two starts
(D) Filip Kuba, (L) Dean McAmmond -- Only two active Ottawa players with a plus rating

The Buff's Three Keys to the Game

1.) Pounce on Ottawa's Goaltending

Ottawa's netminding hasn't been up to snuff this season. In a move that screams desperation, the organization has resorted to juggling starts among three different goalies.

Alex Auld, Martin Gerber, and Brian Elliot all rank in the lower half of the league in goals against and save percentage. None of them have a GAA lower than 2.5. None of them have a save percentage surpassing .920.

None of the 'tenders played well enough to anoint themselves the starter of the club. None of them have posted at least 10 wins this season.

Regardless of who starts tonight, the B's slumping scorers have a perfect opportunity to break out of their funk. Scrap all of the fancy, highlight-reel moves and dekes. Light up the opposition by going back to a basic mantra -- shoot hard and shoot often.

2.) Fix, Fix, Fix the Power Play

I know, I know -- I'm starting to sound like a broken record. But Boston's power play woes can't be ignored, especially at this stage of the season.

The Black and Gold haven't scored a goal with the man advantage in four games. They've had 18 opportunities to make magic happen, failing miserably on each one.

Thanks to its recent struggles, Boston's power play has dropped to fifth in the league. It was second in the league only a couple of weeks ago.

What's wrong with it? How can it be fixed?

The B's continue to falter when making plays out of their own zone on the man advantage. They cough up the puck at the blueline too often, allowing the opposition to easily scale the puck down the rink. A more aggressive forecheck and crisper passing in the attacking zone can fix this imperfection.

Boston also needs to work on its dump-and-chase game on the man advantage. Dumping the puck to the corners and skating hard to retrieve it has been a viable power play strategy since the beginning of the sport. But it doesn't work unless players take the body, dig along the boards, and win one-on-one battles.

The Bruins will have to work hard on the man advantage against the Sens tonight -- Ottawa's home penalty kill is ranked fourth in the league at 86 percent.

3.) Score the Early Go-Ahead Goal

If the B's want to end up on top tonight, they have to deflate Ottawa's confidence early. They can easily do that by taking a quick lead and potting the first goal of the game.

The Senators have won a league-worst two games this season when trailing after the first period. And they've only come back once to win a game in the third.

Boston stands on the opposite side of the spectrum. The Bruins boasts 23-4-3 record when leading after the first, and they've never lost a game in regulation when leading after the second.

Fact of the Game

For the past three years, Boston has watched Tim Thomas transform from a mild-mannered 'tender to a designated "Sens killer."

It only took Timmy one month with the club to show his true colors. In Jan. 2006, Thomas posted his first career shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Senators.

He then went on to shutout Ottawa two more times, boasting a 9-5-2 career record against the club. Overall, he holds a .939 save percentage against the Sens with a goals against average of 2.05.

Thomas will start against Ottawa tonight.


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