It was the best of times and the worst of times. Yet Thursday brings us a huge clash between two teams that probably did not think they would be here for completely different reasons. The Boston Bruins thought they would be battling for the division title when the season started. The Ottawa Senators were just trying to remain competitive. The reality is neither has happened. Boston has slid back near the bubble while the Senators are riding the bubble in an effort to catch the Bruins.
As It Stands Now In The Bubble
Currently, Boston is four points ahead of Ottawa although the Senators have one game in hand. This is what makes Thursday’s battle so important.
A regulation win one way or the other really changes a lot of the dynamic as far as the race for that final wildcard spot. For those wondering, we did a mini bettor’s preview on Wednesday that touches on some of the nuances going into this game. Basically a Boston win in 60 pushes the lead to six points and even with a game in hand that is going to be tough for Ottawa to make up for a variety of reasons.
For one, Craig Anderson is out at least a week with that “bone bruise” injury again. Yes, he aggravated the hand once again. Something still seems fishy there but I digress.
The bottom line is Andrew Hammond goes up against Tuukka Rask essentially for the second wildcard spot. That is what the belief is anyway. Hammond and Rask are both pretty hot goalies at the moment. Okay, the Ottawa goalie may be global thermonuclear war hot right now with an 11-0-1 record and has not given up more than two goals in any game this season. Obviously Ottawa gains confidence from him and vice versa.
Boston is riding Rask on the other hand. It is a very dangerous game they are playing at times. The goalie has been on fire with around a .950 save percentage over the last half dozen starts or so but what if the party stops. Perhaps both Hammond and Rask have an off night. Wouldn’t that be something crazy? Now the Boston goalie had general body soreness believed to be caused by aches, pains, and chills but should be just fine for Thursday.
— Bruins Report (@bruins_fanly) March 18, 2015
Ottawa arguably has a better top six than Boston does right now. Goaltending is about even or we think it is anyway. No one knows how Hammond will do in this big of a spot or guys like Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman for that matter. The same can be countered as far as Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak. There is one more variable into the equation and this might be a big one as well.
Oh about David Krejci?
Yes, here we go again with Krejci news and it was thought he would likely be out until the end of the month at least. Now it turns out he is skating and may be ready to go real soon as he put it. The latest comes now:
Peter Chiarelli said there is a chance David Krejci could play this weekend. He didn't have much of an update, though.
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) March 18, 2015
He is skating just about fully in practice. Keep an eye on David Pastrnak as he missed practice on Wednesday but the bottom like is Krejci will be out for Thursday unless Boston is stretching the truth again. Hey, it’s possible. One never quite knows with Peter Chiarelli, Claude Julien, and company.
The bubble is one very dangerous place. It is quite possible (due to progressions starting to regress) that are playoff cutoff may drop a bit from the rounded up 97 point total. This really depends on the result on Thursday partially. Then after that, there could be secondary bubble effects.
Our dilemma here is this. Everything in this game dictates that Boston will win. Hammond is the key for Ottawa. He will have to make some great saves early to keep the Senators in this. Boston fired 45 shots on Tuesday night at Anders Lindback and though he got a bit lucky, he was damn good. Boston will be tested defensively against Ottawa’s young guns and hey we did not even mention Erik Karlsson yet or Bobby Ryan for that matter. Ryan and Karlsson in the last meeting were two of the main problems Boston had throughout that game.
Yet despite all this, again most every metric points to Boston winning this installment of “Bubble Wars”. The goal is to be on the right side of the bubble before it bursts. Thursday night goes a long way to finding out who is safe and whose bubble actually does go pop.