The San Jose Sharks visit Massachusetts near the peak time for autumn colors and sports Thursday, October 24. The Boston Red Sox are in the World Series for the third time in 10 seasons, the New England Patriots are still among the AFC powers and the Boston Bruins will defend their home as 2011 Stanley Cup champions and 2013 Eastern Conference champions.
Both were considered preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup, with only the Los Angeles Kings being picked to win it as many times by NHL staff. So far, so good: Boston is tied for the fourth-best point percentage in the NHL and San Jose is leading the pack.
However, this will only be the ninth game of the season for each team. Early play means little with over 90 percent of the season ahead. Nor does the Western Conference dominance over the Eastern Conference so far in the 2013-14 NHL season. Even little faith can be put in the recent struggles in this coastal battle for the Bruins, who have failed to defend home ice in all four times since trading Joe Thornton by a combined 17-6.
One thing that is meaningful is the schedule. The Western Conference Sharks are early in a road trip that started in the Eastern Time Zone, and have been in town for two days without a game. They are acclimated, rested and still not rusty.
The Bruins cannot say the same. They are playing 20 hours after a nasty win over a division rival that included a dirty hit injuring long-time San Jose rival Loui Eriksson. Antti Niemi has had just two days off for the visitors, while Tuukka Rask has now sat for four so he could be up to the challenge of taming the NHL leader in goals scored (39 excluding the shootout) despite 11 teams having played more games.
Those things will help the Sharks, but ultimately it is coaches and especially players that win games. The photo list depicts how the two teams compare in each area without injured players.