RECORDS: Bruins 32-10-12 Hawks 25-21-7
PUCK DROP: 7pm
THEY’RE ALL AEROSMITH’S DRUMMER NOW: Stanley Cup Of Chowder
After stealing a point last night by only playing for the third period, the Hawks will have the degree of difficulty seriously upped on them tonight to get three of four points, or even two. The Boston Bruins stroll in, also having played last night, and having won their last four to the tune of 15-4 aggregate. So yeah, this isn’t the Wild.
We wrote this about the Bruins when the Hawks were there in December:
And with this cushion in the Atlantic, the Bs don’t really have to fear a flattening out or market correction. 14 points even at this stage is a gargantuan lead, and unless both Halak’s and Rask’s head fall off and roll into the Charles, they’re not losing that. So they can look forward to at least the first two rounds with home ice. Their season is almost accomplished and we’re weeks away from Christmas.
Yeah, about that.
Thanks to the Lightning finally gaining consciousness and a serious case of, “What the fuck is going on here?”, the Bruins are only up five points on them and have played a game more. So that lead-pipe-cinch of a division crown isn’t so lead-pipe-cinch anymore. So what happened?
Well part of it is an ungodly number of losses after 60 minutes. The Bruins have 12 overall, with only Detroit and Ottawa the only other ones even in double-digits. Flip half of those the other way, which easily could have happened because it’s a lottery, and not only are the Bruins running away with the Atlantic but the entire NHL as well. The Bruins have lost seven games in OT or a shootout in just the past two months. And even still, the Bruins have gone 12-7-6 since the last meeting with the Hawks, which is more than acceptable. It’s not their fault the Lightning have gone 29-1 or whatever.
Overall, the story hasn’t changed that much for the Bs. They’re a decent-to-good metric team. They don’t create as many chances or attempts as the other teams in the top ten, but they bury more of them because they have Pastrnak, Marchand, Bergeron, and Krejci. And they’ve become very tight defensively this season, as they’re the best team in terms of xGA/60 and fifth best in attempts-against. Throw in remarkable special teams (top three in both) and great goaltending, and you see where they raft of OT/SO losses belie what this team actually is. The +44 goal difference, best in the league, is a much better indicator of what this team is.
It’s easy to dismiss the Bruins as just one line, and they do have arguably the best line in hockey still. But that is somewhat unjust to David Krejci, though he basically only gets offensive-zone starts now. Charlie Coyle has been of use as well, but this team is a touch short on the wings behind Marchand and Pastrnak, and probably DeBrusk. McAvoy and Chara are pretty much mine-sweepers now, and they’ve been very good at it, with Grzelcyk and Krug doing most of the pushing and creative work against lesser competition. Carlo rounds out a pretty solid if unspectacular blue line.
Tuke Nuk’em and Jaro Halak might be the best duo in the crease in the league, with bother over .920 and Rask in the Vezina discussion. Before the deadline, they’ll be looking for wingers, but this is a serious contender once again.
Which makes the Hawks’ task that much harder Given their position, they can’t just write off too many games as luxury items. Especially after not getting both points last night. Whom Colliton wants to match up with Bergeron and Co. will be the main watch tonight. It’s not something he’s shown a talent for, and really the only candidate is Kubalik-Toews-Caggiula. Maybe reuniting Kampf and Carpenter somewhere would be another, but don’t count on it. As good as the Bruins are, stopping their top line from putting up three or four goals is still the main task. And staying out of the box.
The Hawks sprung a surprise on the Bruins at The Garden, but once the Bruins actually started paying attention the world collapsed around the Hawks’ ears. Toews saved them in OT. Maybe on the road and the second of a back-to-back will keep the Bruins fro totally focusing. That’s the main hope. The Hawks season will hinge on the following road trip. But it would be nice to have points here in the bag before it.