The Bruins have been one of the stalwart Eastern Conference teams that continues to show resistance against the Western teams that have burned and pillaged their way through the East this season. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins can rival the 8-2-2 record that the Black and Gold have featured against the West this season, and that includes a sterling 5-1 record for the B's against the Pacific Division opponents they’ll see in California over the next week.
But the Bruins also haven’t yet experienced the most difficult part of playing Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose: facing them down in their own backyard.
The Western Conference odyssey starts at the Honda Center on Tuesday night where the Ducks haven’t lost in regulation this season and with Jonas Hiller looking for his 12th straight victory between the pipes.
“Those three California teams . . . it’s going to be a test playing there,” said Reilly Smith. “You never know what’s going to happen out there, so you have to give your best effort for every one of those games or it won’t be close.”
It’ll be just as challenging against the Kings at the Staples Center and a pumped Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks, fresh off Jumbo Joe’s snub from the Team Canada Olympic roster, at the Shark Tank this weekend.
But the Ducks are the team at the top of that heap, and Boston’s undermanned defense will be challenged by the big, physical, skilled attack that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf can brandish in Anaheim.
After that it will be Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown in LA, and Jumbo Joe, Patrick Marleau and a Sharks team that’s starting to take on some injuries (both Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture will be out) in San Jose.
“It’s going to be a challenge. I’ve said it all along and the players know about it,” said Claude Julien. “We might as well mention the fact that they have a combined six regulation losses between those three teams, so it goes to show you how hard it is to go there and win some hockey games.
“It’s a challenge that I and the rest of the team are really looking forward to because that’s the kind of challenge we need right now.”
One of the reasons the Bruins can hang with the big boys in the West?
Because Boston plays a Western Conference style game with big wingers like Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla and Carl Soderberg, and has the biggest, baddest defenseman in the NHL in Zdeno Chara. But these next three games will be extremely telling as to how robust the Bruins’ defense can remain without Dennis Seidenberg soaking up 20 plus minutes of physical, grinding hockey in the D-zone.
Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton and Adam McQuaid are no slouches in the size/strength department either, and this will be their chance to show the B’s coaches and management staff that they have everything they need in house to withstand Seidenberg’s absence.