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.

 

 

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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