Preview: Oilers VS Bruins

Man it doesn’t feel like half the hockey regular season is over but sadly it is. The Bruins are officially at the halfway point in their 2016-2017 campaign as they’re set to take on Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden in game 41 of 82. Watch the 1st of 2 meetings between these two teams as the puck drops at 7 PM EST on NESN.

 

The Rundown:

 

These aren’t your fathers Oilers who won multiple Stanley cups in the 80’s but they’re on the right track for success. Edmonton currently ranks 3rd in the Pacific division with a record of 19-13-7 and 45 points. The Oilers are on their 2nd game of a 4 game trip to the east. The team is on a 2 game losing streak losing to two red-hot hockey clubs; the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets.

 

Edmonton ranks in the top 10 in powerplay percentage coming in at #8 at 21.1%. Not shocking really given the amount of young talent that is on this team. Young German forward Leon Draisaitl, and superstar Connor McDavid have stood out for most of the year. McDavid is having an MVP season leading the NHL in points with Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin with 43. Draisaitl had a hell of a December with 7 goals, 9 assists and 16 points in 14 games.

 

Boston is coming off a 3-0 loss to a lowly New Jersey Devils team. Boston has accumulated only 7 points out of 18 against the following teams: Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs.

 

With the Devils in the rear view mirror, Boston will look to have a different fate against an Oilers team that’s been hot and cold. The Bruins will have to adjust to Edmonton’s speed if they want to have any chance of winning this game. It would be pretty safe to say that the B’s are in dire need of 2 points as they’ve played the most games in the league thus far.

 

The Bruins once again need more out of their powerplay unit as its ranked 27th in the NHL only at 14%. If there was one thing the Bruins did well on Monday night against New Jersey is the penalty kill. The kill went 6 for 6 and improved their league ranking to 2nd in the NHL only behind the Carolina Hurricanes.

 

Player Spotlight:

 

If it weren’t for this player, a guy named McDavid would be in my player spotlight. Instead my player spotlight is Milan Lucic and for good reason. Lucic had a great 8-year tenure filled with some of the best moment in recent history. He helped the Bruins win a Stanley Cup and was an integral part of that run. When Lucic got traded to LA last season and made his formal return against the Bruins, he was serenaded with cheers from the home crowd. He scored a goal late in the game and his team went onto to win 9-2. Lucic then came out for a victory lap after the game was over to much of the fans appreciation. Milan signed with the Oilers in the 2016 offseason for 7 years and 42 million dollars. Lucic is having a good season for the team out west with 10 goals, 16 assists and 26 points. He’s been on the line with McDavid for much of the year nut has not stuck around on his line as of late. He’s still one of the very few best power forwards in the game and is a game changer when he flips that switch.

 

Let’s take a closer look at Torey Krug. Krug only has 1 goal all season while contributing 20 assists and 21 points, which ranks most among Bruins defenseman by a wide margin. The young 25 year old had a rough start to the season not only scoring no points in his first 9 games, but constantly turning over the puck, letting odd man rushes take place and blowing coverage in his own zone. Krug has finally been catching fire lately with 7 points in his last 6 games. The Bruins are going to need him to keep it going cause right now cause he’s the only real threat offensively on their blue line.

 

Projected Lines:

 

Boston:

 

Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner—David Krejci—Frank Vatrano

Tim Schaller—Austin Czarnik—Jimmy Hayes

Anton Blidh/Noel Acciari —Dominic Moore—Riley Nash

 

Zdeno Chara—Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller—Colin Miller

 

Tuukka Rask

Zane McIntyre

 

Edmonton:

 

Patrick Maroon—Connor McDavid—Leon Draisaitl

Milan Lucic—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Zack Kassian

Benoit Pouliot—Drake Caggiula—Jordan Eberle

Anton Lander—Mark Letestu—Jesse Puljujarvi

 

Oscar Klefbom— Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera—Kris Russell

Eric Gryba/Jordan Oesterle—Matthew Benning

 

Cam Talbot

Jonas Gustavsson

 

Storylines:

 

Former Bruins draft pick in 2012 Matt Benning (son of former Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning) signed with the Edmonton Oilers over the offseason. The defenseman also played for the Northeastern Huskies, A lot of Boston ties for the young 22 year old rookie as his father Jim Benning is the GM for the Vancouver Canucks. Jim Benning was the assistant GM for the Bruins for 8 years before taking the Cnucks job.…. The Bruins have placed Anton Khudobin on waivers and the Bruins recalled Goaltender Zane McIntyre….. Claude Julien also gave an update on David Backes clearing him for practice and full contact but is unlikely for Thursday night’s game…. On Wednesday the hockey world found out the Milt Schmidt passed away at the age of 98. The Bruins will pay tribute to him before the game and have embedded Schmidt’s number on the ice for tonight’s game.

Gameday Prediction:

4-1 Edmonton

 

 

R.I.P Milt Schmidt. You will be forever missed.

 

 

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