Previewing the Patriots potential Divisional Round opponents

The Patriots’ did what they set out to do and did it to perfection. The Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins by a final score of 35-14 thus claiming the #1 seed in the AFC. What remains to be seen however is whom the Patriots will play on Saturday January 14th. The road to the Super Bowl will go through Foxboro as long as the Patriots get by the divisional round. It would be a huge upset if one of these teams beats the Patriots in Gillette Stadium. While there are some dangerous low seed teams out in the NFC, the AFC is certainly not the case. If the Patriots just show up and “Do their jobs” they should have no problem against the following teams.

 

Houston Texans

 

Last times these teams met Jacoby Brissett was the starting QB for New England. This was only cause Jimmy Garoppolo went down with injury and Tom Brady was still serving his deflate-gate suspension. The Patriots went on to beat the Texans in a 27-0 shutout. Brock Osweiler was left shaking his head all night including when ex Patriot Jamie Collins picked him off. It was also a big night for running back LeGarrette Blount scoring two touchdowns and rushed for 104 yards.

 

The Texans are now without J.J Watt leaving a huge hole on defense. You just can’t replace a J. J Watt. It’s not possible. There have been players that stepped up but this Houston defense isn’t the same when it’s without Watt in the lineup.

 

The Texans are actually very fortunate to be in the position their in. The Tennessee Titans were on a late season surge till week 16 when injury struck quarterback Marcus Mariota. That injury alone derailed any chance of the Titans winning the AFC South.

 

Patriots should be able to romp this team with ease. It doesnt’t matter if the quarterback is Tom Savage or Brock Osweiler. Brady will pick apart this defense and Blount should be able to run wild again despite the Texans having 325 pound Vince Wilfork clog the middle.

 

 

Oakland Raiders

 

With the quarterback position in doubt against their matchup with the Texans on Saturday, the Raiders will turn to Connor Cook.

 

Who?…. Exactly.

 

The Raiders lost both of their top two quarterbacks on their depth chart leaving Cook to do it all by himself come Saturday in Houston. Even if they the beat Houston, do we really give the Raiders a real shot?

 

Sure they have stars on offense like Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper with Latavius Murray as the tailback but that part doesn’t worry me. The only thing that worries me about the Raiders is not having much of a look on Cook’s in game ability. The rookie was drafted in the 4th round this year and come out of Michigan Sate and is a virtual unknown.

 

Hmm who was the quarterback drafted out of Michigan in the late rounds that turned out to be the NFL’s best QB of all time? Can’t think of him

 

Obviously that was TB12, but that story is only happening once in a lifetime folks and Connor Cook is no Tom Brady.

 

The Raiders defense improved big time this year with huge performances from Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith. Throwing the ball in the middle of the field too much could pose problems for the Patriots especially against those stars on defense.

 

In the end the Patriots should end up beating the Raiders rather easily. Even if 2nd string QB Matt McGloin is back in time if they advance and meet the Patriots, the ship set sail once MVP of the team Derek Carr went out with injury.

 

Miami Dolphins

 

This is the team that actually scares me the most. No I’m not kidding. When you a play a division foe 3 times, and you beat them twice already the 3rd time is always the hardest one to get.

 

The starting QB injury bug also came around to bite the Dolphins as Ryan Tannehill went out with injury with a sprained ACL/MCL. Tannehill would probably be back in time for a game against New England if the Dolphins can defeat the steel curtain in Pittsburgh. For now though, Matt Moore in all likelihood will play against the Steelers.

 

Dolphins have many different weapons on offense such as rising stars DaVante Parker and Jay Ajayi along with reception machine Jarvis Landry. On defense, this unit is underrated and hits hard especially with guys like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh. This is a defense I don’t want to play against especially against Suh cause he can take out and injure anybody on the football field.

 

All that said, the Patriots should cruise to another victory over the Dolphins if they were to meet again. It would be the toughest out of the 3 matchups in my opinion just cause they know each other so well. However that shouldn’t matter in game of this circumstance against the most inexperienced team in the NFL playoffs this year.

 

 

Whoever advances to Gillette better get ready for the apocalypse. The storm that is Tom Brady is coming. With the Pats looking as good as they have been all season long, it’ll be a long flight home for the losing team. If somehow one of these teams were to beat the Patriots inside their house and make me look like an idiot, this would be the one of the most disappointing seasons in Patriots history given the success and unity of this team. It would be a sick joke if something were to go wrong now. This is why they fought for the #1 seed though, to have the easiest path to the Super Bowl. It’s all on the Patriots now. No pressure.

 

 

 

 

5 New Years Resolutions for The Boston Bruins

The New Year is here! You know what that means! It’s a new year, with new beginnings and new years resolutions.

The Boston Bruins enter 2017 tied for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators. Not a bad spot to be in if you’re Boston. The 2016-2017 campaign is far from done but if you’re a Bruins fan you have to be happy even with the inconsistencies that come along with this team. Here are a few new years resolutions I have to solve their inconsistent play.

 

Fix Backup Goaltending

The backup goaltender position has never been worse for Boston. The Bruins have 1 win from a backup goalie this year and it’s January 2nd. Meaning Anton Khudobin, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre combined for 1 win in 10 starts this year. That’s a lot of crucial points left on the board.

Goes to show how Tuukka Rask is the MVP of this team right now collecting 19 of the clubs’s 20 wins on the season.

 

Stay The Course With The Youth

That’s the only way they’re going to develop into better players. Guy’s like Brandon Carlo, Colin Miller and Austin Czarnik have made huge strides this season and it’s important to keep playing them regularly.

They’re going to have their bad nights but that’s all part of a development of a player. You can’t just stick them up on level 9 of TD Garden every night for 3 weeks and expect these kids to play well when its time for them to play. That’s just not how it works. Patience is a virtue.

 

Scratch Jimmy Hayes

Speaking of level 9, this guy SHOULD be up on level 9 with the way he performed from February up until now. Jimmy Hayes had a 35 game pointless streak dating back to last season.

He finally snapped that drought in November of this year with a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jimmy Hayes has accumulated a grand total of 3 points in 33 games this season.

Although Hayes has found chemistry on the 4th line with Dominic Moore and Anton Blidh, his production is very limited to say the least. What purpose does he really serve? What’s his role cause I’d like to know.

 

Trade Ryan Spooner

This might be an unpopular opinion but the value has never been any higher for center Ryan Spooner. Spooner has 7 goals 11 assists and 18 points on the season but is red hot right now with 9 points in his last 10 games.

Quick trivia, what do all these players have in common? Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Ryan Spooner, Austin Czarnik, Dominic Moore and Noel Acciari. The answer is they’re all centers.

If there is one position that the Bruins are deep at it’s at center even with the injury to Backes. This team is infatuated with the center position. Coach Claude Julien also hasn’t shown much trust in Spooner especially cause of his lackluster play in his own defensive zone.

Spooner is on his final year of his contract and it’s important the Bruins get something for him. They still have budding star David Pastrnak to sign in the offseason and you know he’s probably going to command up to 6 million a year if he keeps up this rate. Don’t ask me what we could get for Spooner because it’s anybody’s guess, If I were the GM, I’d potentially ask for 2 draft picks for Spooner.

 

Trade for a Right Wing

A top 4 defenseman is what the Bruins really need, but it doesn’t seem all that realistic that the Bruins are willing to trade a ton of youth to get one. Looking at the hockey club’s depth at RW, there’s not much there at all. With Backes out indefinitely with a concussion, your right-wingers are David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano, Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes. Vatrano’s only playing there right now cause of the injury to Backes, his real position is left wing.

Looking at the market right now for potential right-wingers, Radim Vrbata of the Arizona Coyotes and Jarome Iginla of the Colorado Avalanche make the most sense. Both are on the last year of their respective deals as well. With both of those teams completely out of the playoff picture, I can totally see 1 or both players get dealt at the trade deadline.

 

 

Losing to Colorado, Toronto, and the NY Islanders is not ideal. Those could be critical points lost that we could be talking about in seasons end. However the Bruins should be satisfied with the standings right now. The New Year will not be kind to them in the months of February and March when the B’s go on their 2 western coast trips from hell. That means it’s important to get these points now while they can against lesser competition. If they don’t, the roller coaster that is the 2016-2017 Boston Bruins is sure to be a bumpy road ahead.

Photo credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images North America

My take on the current state of Fighting in Hockey

The great game of hockey is very unique, like no other. You could even fight a player on the other team at the expense of sitting in the sin bin for 5 minutes. Fighting in hockey draws a lot of casual viewership. Once you see it once, you want to see it again and again. There’s nothing like two men wanting to duke it out to give their respective teams a shot of energy. Who doesn’t love fighting in this sport?

 

Apparently the NHL doesn’t anymore.

 

At Tuesday night’s game between the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets, Josh Anderson of the Jackets shoved Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid and of course you knew McQuaid wasn’t going to take it. These guys’ are true heavyweights. Anderson weighs 221 pounds and stands at 6’3 and McQuaid comes in at 212 pounds with a height of 6’4. To say this would be good fight to watch would be an understatement. They both dropped their gloves signifying it was go time.

 

However the linesman closest to the action stopped the two from even starting to fight. Instead we saw both men draw 2 minute roughing minors for legit nothing. My initial reaction when I was watching this was “why?” In what was a drama filled game I decided to give the refs a pass for this one.

 

Fast forward to Thursday night’s heated matchup between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. William Carrier of the Sabres and once again Adam McQuaid went for blows on each other. When the fight started, the linesmen immediately broke it up. Carrier and McQuaid still traded shots on one another even when the referees were in the middle of it. They should’ve stayed out of their business and let them duke it out because I really thought one of the referees was going to eat shot to the jaw. Hasn’t been the first time that’s happened. The NHL should be embarrassed with the way they’re handling this situation.

 

Fight totals have been going down season by season. That’s natural as the NHL wants to implement more talent in the league, but if you were to tell me in 2009 that fights were going to drop from 734 to 344 7 years later I would’ve laughed in your face. Sure enough it did and that’s mind blowing.

 

Currently the team that sits as the fighting major leader is the Anaheim Ducks with 25 fights, which aren’t too low 37 games into the season. Let’s look at the bottom of those standings. Capitals are last with 3 and the Blackhawks, Rangers and Hurricanes are tied for 2nd to last with 4. Even in the lockout-shortened year in 2013, the last place team in fights was the Oilers with 13 fights. God that’s pathetic. Goes to show how much fighting has dipped in just a few short seasons.

 

Fighting being banned would turn a lot of the old time hockey fans away. Taking out fights would be a big mistake from a business standpoint as well in viewership, ticket sales departments. The league doesn’t need that, as the NHL doesn’t get as much attention as the other leagues such as the NBA, NFL and MLB. Fighting is still kind of there but only half-heartedly as they’re really trying to prevent more head injuries.

 

Rules over the years have changed like not allowing players to take off their own helmets while fighting. Another one was how all players must wear visors unless you were grandfathered in before the new rule became official in June of 2013. With the way the league handled concussions and brain trauma back in the day, the league knew they had to do something before more lawsuits crept in. Even more so with the deaths of NHL enforcers Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien.

 

Whatever the NHL decides to do in the long run with fights really doesn’t matter to me. I still love the sport and everything it stands for. The speed and skill at the level these players play at is incredible and a joy to watch. It’s the NHL’s choice on whether or not to cut fighting out altogether. If they do ever decide to pull the trigger and ban fighting, they just better prepare for the backlash that comes along with it.

Photo credit: Fred Squillante of the Columbus Dispatch

 

UFC 207 Preview and Predictions

The last UFC pay per view of the year is here. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will play host to UFC 207. This stacked card with great fights from top to bottom. Tonight, Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes will headline UFC 207 as she puts the title on the line against the returning Ronda Rousey. That fight itself should be enough to sell you on the card. If it wasn’t then this will, Men’s Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz takes on rising star Cody Garbrandt for the strap. Some other notable names on this card: John Lineker, Alex Oliveira, Tim Means and former champions Johny Hendricks and TJ Dillashaw. Lets break down all 10 fights.

Fight Pass Exclusive at 7:30 PM ET:

Tim Means VS Alex Oliveira

This one is expected to end in a knockout. Both fighters are very comfortable keeping the fight on their feet. This is going to be a brawl and a fight of the night candidate. I’ll take Cowboy Oliveira by TKO.

 

Preliminary Bouts on FS1 at 8 PM EST:

 

Brandon Thatch VS Niko Price

Originally Sabah Homasi was supposed to fight Thatch however he was pulled in favor of his teammate Niko Price. Price is another prospect who has a professional record of 8-0 with 6 of those 8 victories coming via KO. Thatch has lost 3 in a row and he must win, if not he’ll likely be out the door without a job by the end of UFC 207. That being said, Thatch is a little more experienced at this level gets a much needed win by decision.

Antonio Carlos Jr. vs. Marvin Vettori

The Italian Vettori is one of the most well rounded prospects in the middleweight division. His ground game is solid and his striking is outstanding. His opponent Carlos, is a brazilian jujitsu black belt but has yet to win 2 consecutive fights under the promotion. This is going to be a tough fight to predict. I’ll go with fellow Italian Marvin Vettori by unanimous decision.

Mike Pyle VS Alex Garcia

41-year-old veteran Mike Pyle has been through many wars in his MMA career. He has lost 3 out of his last 4 and he’s not getting any younger. While his opponent Alex Garcia has power and goes for the finish each time he steps in the cage. Pyle will want to avoid striking Garcia cause he’ll never win that matchup. I’ll take Garcia by KO

Johny Hendricks VS Neil Magny

Hendricks ended up missing weight by 2 ½ pounds and he’ll have to give up 20% of his purse to Magny. Magny has a reach of 80 inches and it’s the longest in the welterweight division. He’ll have an 11-inch reach advantage over “Big Rigg” Hendricks. All signs point to Magny closing distance on Hendricks but not so fast. Hendricks is technically sound striker with a top-level wrestling ability. I see this fight ending by split decision favoring Magny.

 

Pay Per View Main Card Bouts Live at 10 PM EST:

Dong Hyun Kim VS Tarec Saffiedine

With both fighters ranked, this is a critical matchup that will shift the rankings in a big way. Saffiedine loves to strike and has a great submission game. Kim will have a 6-inch reach advantage over Saffiedine. Kim cannot be taken down to the ground or else he’ll be in trouble. Kim will stay on his feet and get a TKO stoppage solidifying a spot possibly in the top 5.

Louis Smolka Vs Ray Borg

The flyweight division will be on full display on pay per view. Ray Borg missed weight by 3 ½ pounds and he’ll give up 30% of his purse to Louis Smolka. Smolka is an excellent striker but lost a big fight to Brandon Moreno by submission. Of course, Borgs game is based a lot on his grappling and submissions. Smolka won’t let another submission happen twice in a row. I got the Hawaiian Louis Smolka by split decision.

TJ Dillashaw VS John Lineker

A lot is at stake in this fight. The winner of this fight will likely be facing the winner of Cruz/Garbrandt in the near future. Both ranked #1 and #2 respectively, this should be one of the most exciting fights on the card. Dillashaw has not seen in an opponent like Lineker before. Lineker has hands of stone and he is the divisions most powerful force up there with Garbrandt. Dillashaw is a cardio machine and is so quick on his feet. This will be a close fight but Dillashaw will stop at nothing to get back his title. Dillashaw by unanimous decision.

Co-Main Event: Dominick Cruz VS Cody Garbrandt (Men’s Bantamweight Championship)

Garbrandt has devastating power. Every time this kids in there he’s looking for the kill. Who doesn’t love that? Cruz could frustrate Garbrandt with the way he sticks and moves. It’ll be interesting to see if fellow Alpha Male teammate Urijah Faber set a game plan for Cody to use. There’s no one that knows Cruz more than Faber. I’m a big fan of Garbrandt and pulling for him to win the belt, but Cruz has shook off all the rust. After his victories over Dillashaw and Faber., he hasn’t missed a beat. Cruz by unanimous decision.

Main Event: Amanda Nunes VS Ronda Rousey (Women’s Bantamweight Championship)

MMA superstar, Rowdy Ronda Rousey will enter the octagon for the 1st time in over 13 months since being defeated by Holly Holm. With no media obligations for Rousey, there’s no telling how she’s going to approach this fight. She can’t fight scared or this will be over before she knows it. There are not many holes in Amanda’s game. She ‘s an all around great fighter with fantastic striking and is very good on the mat. You do not want to go on the mat with Rousey though. Ronda specializes in Judo and grappling, a deadly combination. 9 of Ronda’s 12 wins have come via submission and that’s how I see it playing out tonight. Rousey will end up standing tall closing the show as the new Women’s Bantamweight Champion of the world.

Notes:

Another great fight that was supposed to take place at UFC 207 was a rematch between Cain Velazquez and Fabricio Werdum. Things changed quickly when it was found out that Velazquez was declared “unfit to compete.” The fight is completely scrapped from the card. Werdum was offered to face Junior dos Santos on 6 days notice, but Werdum asked for more money. The UFC rejected Werdum’s request.

This will be Mike Goldberg’s final broadcast for the promotion. Goldberg has been with UFC for just about two decades. His famous call “It is all over!” will be apart of many highlight reels in the UFC for years to come. So who will take over for Goldberg you may ask. It remains to be seen who will replace Goldberg, but all signs point to Joe Anik taking over as the new play-by-play voice.

Patriots need to play it safe on Sunday

That feeling is in the air again. Only a few short weeks till the Pats host another playoff game at Gillette Stadium. One more matchup with the Dolphins should be smooth sailing right?. What can go wrong?

The Patriots have played 15 games and with only 1 remaining, this question is posed. Should New England start their starters in Miami and if they do how long do they go? Lots of factors play into this. The Patriots number 1 seed is still not locked up yet. With a win from the Raiders and a New England loss versus the Dolphins, the Pats drop to the number 2 seed. While it’s not the end of the world dropping to the 2 seed, it is a little bit uncomfortable going to the Blackhole in Oakland for a potential AFC Championship game.

New England has to be very careful with they handle things. Here’s how I would approach the game on Sunday. I would start the 1st string for a half (AT MOST) then I’d bench them and call it a day. Why risk it? The team has a bye week next week. This Patriots team cannot afford anymore-key injuries to big name players. The team struggles as is in Miami. This would also be a great time to showcase more Jimmy Garoppolo whether he’s the future Patriots quarterback or not.

Let’s rewind a few years back to 2012. Week 11 versus the Indianapolis Colts and the Patriots are up by more then 30 points with 3 minutes to go in the game. Pats go for an extra point and Rob Gronkowski is blocking. Yes, you read that right. What do you think happened next? Of course he gets injured and he’s out 4 weeks with a broken forearm. When he came back later that season he was not the same dynamic player. He reinjured his forearm again in the 1s playoff game and he was ruled out for the rest of the playoffs.

Do we really want to see another wacky play like this end a season of a star player? God bless Bill Belichick and all he has accomplished. He’ll go down as one of the best coaches in the game. On that day though, he totally butchered a simple situation. It’ll be interesting to see how Belichick handles his roster on Sunday.

Taking a look at the playoff field in the AFC, I would feel cautiously optimistic as a Pats fan. The QB position is a complete joke in the AFC playoffs. Besides Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, there’s not much out there to be honest. Matt McGloin, Alex Smith, Matt Moore and Tom Savage. Gross! Looking at that list of quarterbacks, it would be a massive failure if New England doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl.

We’re not totally sure on who the Pats will play in the divisional round as there’s plenty more football left to be played. One thing is for certain however; the Patriots will be the clear-cut favorite to win the AFC. The only ones that are going to stop them from getting to the Super Bowl is themselves. So please Bill, for the love of god, keep this team healthy going into the playoffs.

Dave Dombrowski is a man on a mission

The worst feeling for any diehard baseball fan knowing there’s only a month and a half left till spring training. The true dead time in baseball. Especially for the Boston Red Sox as the team looks pretty set barring anymore major trades or signings from President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Speaking of Dombrowski, he has bad to improve his pitching staff this offseason in a big way. So what does he do? He goes and gets the best pitcher on the trade market without trading any of his young core players.

 

The addition of Chris Sale has Red Sox fans buzzing, as they should. Sale, who will be 28 by the beginning of the season, was acquired in a blockbuster deal sending third basemen Yoan Moncada, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, and pitchers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz to the Chicago White Sox. Last year Sale went 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA and 233 strikeouts. Dombrowski has had a history of trading top prospects for a chance to win a World Series in a single season but in this situation, I’m okay with this. Sale is still under team control for three more years and their giving him pennies compared to what their giving David Price. A very hefty price to pay shipping out a top prospect like Moncada, but lets consider how the Red Sox season ended last year. When your CY Young award winner AND the pitcher you spend 217 million dollars on, get shelled in the first two games of a five game series, you can’t like your chances. Sure enough the eventual American League Champion Cleveland Indians swept Boston in the American League divisional series.

 

With Sale in Boston, this gives the Sox much needed depth in the rotation. We’re looking at a rotation that consists of David Price, Rick Porcello Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez and a healthy Steven Wright. Drew Pomeranz and Joe Kelly will be waiting in the wings of a potential injury. Another man who was going to provide depth to the rotation was traded a week ago, ten-year vet Clay Buchholz. Clay was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for second basemen Josh Tobias. Buchholz in his career with Boston ended up with a record of 81-61, an ERA of 3.96 and 899 strikeouts. Clay’s ten-year tenure was a roller coaster. That roller coaster included two World Series titles, several injuries, mediocre starts, a no hitter, a bad haircut, two All Star game appearances and a pounding headache to see pitch live. As much of a headache he was to see pitch on a yearly basis, he wasn’t the worst pitcher and he had his moments. Most importantly, there wasn’t much of a spot for Buchholz on this team. It was time to move on.

 

It remains to be seen what the Red Sox will be doing with their bullpen in 2017 especially with the loss of World Series hero Koji Uehara. As of right now, it looks as if newly acquired relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg will be taking over the role of Uehara as the setup man. Thornburg flew under the radar for the Milwaukee Brewers last year totaling 20 holds, 13 saves with a 2.15 ERA. Red Sox traded pitcher Josh Pennington, third basemen Travis Shaw, shortstop Mauricio Dubon and a player to be named later for Thornburg. Thornburg could be a decent insurance plan if something were to happen to closer Craig Kimbrel.

 

The overall pitching on this staff was very weak going into the offseason. Dombrowski made sure to bolster his pitching in time for next season. In the long term whether these moves pan out or not one thing is for certain, the Red Sox are a contender for the World Series for the next three years and that should get any Red Sox fan excited.

Photo credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

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