It goes without saying that given what the stakes are, tonight's Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs tilt is the biggest game of the year for the B's. Not only are Boston's playoff hopes on the line, but a potential place at the table in the top-two selections of the 2010 draft.
The Leafs have been a bad team for most of the year, but they are digging out of the hole they put themselves in. The Bruins need two points, and they need them in regulation to keep themselves entrenched in the playoff picture, but to also deny Toronto the chance to move out of 29th place for the first time since...well, I can't remember when.
The Tampa Bay Lightning haven't helped matters at all with their 5-0 loss to the New York Rangers last night. The Rangers are chasing Boston, but the B's saving grace could be the Philadelphia Flyers' swoon, caused by a season-ending injury to Ray Emery. The Flyers' playoff hopes now rest squarely on the shoulders of Jeremy Duchesne (who?) and Brian Boucher.
The B's must get a strong goaltending performance from Tuukka Rask tonight, and they desperately need some offense from any one of Marco Sturm, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder and anyone else who has been MIA up front lately. Mark Recchi called some of his teammates out the other day, and it would be great for Boston if Rex backed up his words with action in the form of production tonight.
Oh, and defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk has been called up from Providence, meaning that a veteran defedner (Mark Stuart?) will be out of the lineup tonight. Like Matt Hunwick, Bodnarchuk is undersized and can really skate. Unlike Hunwick, he can actually play pretty good defense (but doesn't bring the offense much).
So, the table is set for one heck of a matchup tonight. It doesn't get any easier for Boston, travel here to Washington D.C. to play the Capitals on Monday night, so two points from the Leafs (and in regulation as I said before) really needs to go in the books tonight. It's a character game...time for the guys who haven't been pulling their weight to stand up and be counted tonight.
I'll see the Bruins at practice tomorrow, so we'll hope that there are smiles instead of frowns (although practice might not happen given that it's Easter Sunday tomorrow...we'll see) all around.
Bottom line: The Bruins control their own destiny. It's time for them to get it done. No more excuses.