Although the top two teams in the league are out of the Eastern Conference, it is well known that the NHL is dominated by the teams in it’s Western Conference (the last three Stanley Cup champs coming out of the West).
The Bruins are set to face-off against some of the meat of the West this week. Tonight they take on an Anaheim Ducks team, fresh off a loss to a huge division rival the San Jose Sharks, but are 3-2 in their last 5. The Bruins (also 3-2 in their last 5) have had trouble with the Ducks in the past but found a way to beat them last year with a shootout goal from Jerome Iginla (no longer on the team).
Aside from the Ducks, Boston will have to recover from that game pretty quick to face one of the leagues best goaltenders Jonathan Quick. They will head to Los Angeles to face the defending cup champs, the Kings, the very next night. Last year, the Kings won 4-2 when playing on home ice but 11 days later lost 3-2 when they had to come to the Garden.
Sitting as the 6th seed in the East, the Bruins can ill afford a string of loses and that’s what worries me about these two games. The Bruins, with problems on defense and injuries up front on the offensive side (Krejci did not make the trip), don’t match up well with the west coast speed of the Kings and Ducks. That being said they are evenly matched in the standings.
The Bruins wrap up their 4-game west coast campaign with games in San Jose (Thursday) and Phoenix (Saturday), two very winnable games but not if they drop the first two. The Bruins have been painfully average, if not below at some points, all season and need to start proving themselves. Going out west and bringing home 7 or 8 points will do just that. Beating good teams and playing well while doing that will give them more confidence when they play worse teams like Florida, Carolina and Winnipeg. Teams that you need to take 2 from, but all teams they only beat by one goal.
This is a pivotal point in the season where you want to see your team find their identity. I think we’ll find out what kind of team the Bruins are after this week out west.