Preview: Bruins VS Blue Jackets

The Christmas break has come and gone, the NHL is back in business and all is right in the world again with 10 total games on Tuesday’s NHL slate. One of those is a physical matchup that features the Boston Bruins who head back out on the road to Nationwide Arena to take on the red hot Columbus Blue Jackets. Watch the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams as the puck drops at 7 PM EST on NESN.

The Rundown:

Well who would’ve thought the Columbus Blue Jackets would be in first place in the NHL at the holiday break? With a record of 23-5-4, Columbus is a danger team and have been on fire all season long. These sizzling Jackets have yet to lose in December and are currently riding a 12 game winning streak heading into their matchup with the Bruins. The current winning streak also holds as the franchise record. Jackets will go for lucky number 13 in a row tonight at home in a suddenly packed house at Nationwide Arena. Columbus only has 5 regulation losses in 32 games but two of those losses have come against the Bruins.

Boston however, is trending the other way with 7 losses in their last 10 games and are looking to right the ship against the NHL’s best. Lack of goal scoring and the backup goaltending situation has made this team a roller coaster to watch on a nightly basis. The Black and Gold also need more from their special teams starting with their power play as they’re ranked 28th overall only converting 13.9 %. That’s not going to get it done. Tweaks will be needed if the power play continues to struggle. On the other side of special teams, the B’s have a stout penalty kill unit as they’re ranked 3rd in the NHL killing off 87.3 % of penalties. Their PK has a tough test Tuesday night as they go up against the Blue Jackets who currently own the #1 power play in hockey at 26.9 %.

Player Spotlight:

Nineteen-year-old Zach Werenski is having one hell of a season for Columbus thus far and he has a lot to do with the Blue Jackets success on the power play. His stat line is pretty interesting, 6 goals, 15 assists and 21 points but 11 of those points have come on the power play. These numbers are proving to be Calder Memorial trophy worthy, but with a crowded rookie class this year of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Jimmy Vesey, Patrick Laine and Matt Murray, it’ll be awfully tough for the 1st year defenseman to take home the Calder.

Patrice Bergeron is a top star in the NHL and has graced Bruins fans for years with his well-rounded game, clutch game winning goals, and extreme amount of toughness. All that being said, he has not gotten off to the best start this season. As a matter of fact, this is his worst offensive start to a season he has had in his career. Bergeron still plays a fantastic two way game but has not found the score sheet much at all this year. With only 5 goals, 5 assists and 10 points in 33 games played it’s not like this is a small sample size. Those are atrocious numbers for a player of Bergeron’s caliber. The Bruins are going to need to get him going as soon as possible if their going to want any chance to get back into the playoffs, something they haven’t done since 2014.

Projected Lines:

Boston:

Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner/Tim Schaller—David Krejci—David Backes

Frank Vatrano—Austin Czarnik—Riley Nash

Anton Blidh—Dominic Moore—Jimmy Hayes/Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara—Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller—Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

Columbus:

Brandon Saad—Alexander Wennberg—Nick Foligno

Boone Jenner—Brandon Dubinsky—Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert—William Karlsson—Josh Anderson

Scott Hartnell—Lukas Sedlak—Sam Gagner

Zach Werenski— Seth Jones

Jack Johnson—David Savard

Ryan Murray—Markus Nutivaara

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Storylines:

At morning skate, Bruins defenseman John Michael Liles skated with the team for the first time since the concussion he suffered on November 27th. Coach Claude Julien confirmed that he’s been skating for a few times on his own but still not cleared for contact. With Liles on his way back from injury, it’ll be interesting to see what the B’s do with their defense, as they will have 8 defenseman on the roster upon his return.

Game-day Prediction:

4-3 Boston

Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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