Wednesday, 16 October 2013

New Vs. Old

The last time these two men faced one another, they played for the same team. However, as the game looms large on the schedule tomorrow night, the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers will play one another and it will feature a dichotomy of the prodigy versus his former mentor. Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas will face-off as opponents for the first time in their careers, and it should be an epic battle... until Boston gains control of the puck. Thomas will undoubtedly see a pile of rubber tomorrow as he backstops the Panthers, but Rask could find himself busy if the Bruins fall victim to the Sunrise Siesta.

While Claude Julien has yet to name Rask as the starter for the Bruins, the Panthers need a few wins and have named Thomas as their starter to help them in their quest to down the Bruins. Thomas left his most recent game eight days ago against the Flyers with a groin issue, but it is expected he will get the start.

Rask was more than happy to talk a little about his former teammate and tandem partner. "I never thought that we would play against each other," Rask told the Bruins website. "But I'm glad that he made his comeback and proved people wrong again, and I hope he does well."

Thomas, on the other hand, is back to his old ways, refusing to speak to the media before games. While his media silence can be frustrating, the Panthers' recent play isn't pleasing anyone as they sit at 2-5-0 for the season. Getting some strong goaltending from Thomas will go a long way in helping the Panthers move up the division standings in their attempts to gain a playoff berth. With the win, they would move into a tie with Boston at six points in the Atlantic Division.

Boston, on the other hand, has been anything but the dominant team seen in last year's playoffs. They resemble the stumbling team seen against Toronto in the opening round, but they look nothing like the team that dismantled the Penguins en route to the Stanley Cup Final. They dropped a game against the surprising Avalanche in which they were shutout, and dropped their Monday game against the Red Wings by a 3-2 score. The Bruins' are third-best in the NHL right now in terms of goals-against-per-game, but they have been brutal on the powerplay (25th) where they did a pile of damage last season. That has to change if the Bruins want to catch the Maple Leafs who sit atop the division.

Because their powerplay is struggling (2-for-19), their goals-per-game has plummeted to 19th-best in the NHL. Obviously, that lack of scoring will put pressure on the defence to be better, so Rask will have to be near-perfect against the Panthers if the Bruins want to leave Sunrise with a win. Claude Julien is aware of the deficiency in the Bruins' attack right now. "At the end of the day, the main thing of a power play is that you have to score, and we’re not doing that, so you can’t be happy with it," Julien said to Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe.

Florida is slightly behind Boston in goals-per-game (21st) with their powerplay only marginally better (24th). If this game was played based purely on statistical analysis, this game might not be any sort of featured game for any broadcaster. However, the Thomas-Bruins storyline should be something to watch for tomorrow as it appears the Bruins are relishing the chance to get a shot at their former teammate.

"All those years shooting on him in practice, I think it'll be fun to finally shoot on him in a game and I'm sure he's looking forward to it as well," Milan Lucic told the Bruins website.

Like Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader, the results of this battle could make for talking points for years to come. Or it could simply be a case of Tony Stark being much smarter and much better than his mentor in Obadiah Stane as the Bruins simply overwhelm the Panthers. Either way, stick around for the post-game comments when we get to hear from Tim Thomas. It could be very entertaining!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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