Beginning tonight against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, the Bruins embark on their most difficult slate of the season. Thirteen of the B’s remaining 18 games are against teams who are currently in playoff positioning, and another three against teams who are battling for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference — the Devils and Hurricanes (twice).
If Tuesday’s 2-1 win against the lowly Calgary Flames was any indication, this stretch run is going to have a lot of twists and turns. So buckle up Bruins fans, because the road to the playoffs is going to get bumpy.
Gametime: 7:00 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 35-23-6 (76 points), Blackhawks 40-20-5 (85 points)
Location: TD Garden
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Lee Stempniak
Matt Beleskey-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Loui Eriksson-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes
Landon Ferraro-Noel Acciari-Brett Connolly
Zdeno Chara-Kevan Miller
Torey Krug-Dennis Seidenberg
John-Michael Liles-Adam McQuaid
Blackhawks projected lines
Andrew Ladd-Jonathan Toews-Andrew Shaw
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Andrew Desjardins-Teuvo Teravainen-Tomas Fleischmann
Dale Weise-Dennis Rasmussen-Richard Panik
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Erik Gustafsson-Brent Seabrook
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Christian Ehrhoff
Matchup to watch: Chara/Miller pairing vs. Blackhawks top six
In year’s past, Zdeno Chara going up against the likes of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa (who is out tonight with a leg injury) and Patrick Kane was a game in and of itself. With Chara declining with age, and his defensive partner Kevan Miller being, well, a liability at times, the Bruins’ top defensive pairing could be in for a long night.
Whether they’re matched up against Toews, Andrew Ladd and Andrew Shaw, or Kane (the favorite to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP), Artem Anisimov and Calder Trophy candidate Artemi Panarin, Chara and Miller, to put it mildly, will have a tough assignment. The Blackhawks top six contributed to four of the team’s five goals in yesterday’s win over the Red Wings in Detroit.
The Blackhawks top six contributed to four of the team’s five goals in yesterday’s win over the Red Wings in Detroit. The B’s must keep Kane, Toews and company on the outside and away from the prime scoring areas if they want to be successful tonight.
Storyline to watch: Can the fourth line keep it going
In just their very first shift together as a unit, Noel Acciari, Landon Ferraro and Brett Connolly set the tone for things to come against Calgary. A great pass from Torey Krug set up Ferraro for his fifth of the season to give the B’s a 1-0 first period lead. Each member of the fourth line ended with at least 5:50 of ice time on Tuesday night. That’s a far cry from a rotating set of fourth liners in the B’s lineup this season that includes the likes Joonas Kemppainen, Zac Rinaldo and Tyler Randell.
Each member of the fourth line ended with at least 5:50 of ice time on Tuesday night, but more importantly, they are providing a skill set that head coach Claude Julien has always wanted since the departure of the ‘Merlot Line.’
“Well, it didn’t take them long to get that first goal right?” Julien said of his fourth line following the 2-1 win over the Flames. “They stepped on the ice, and it was in the net. So I think we got two guys there with some experience, you know Landon [Ferraro] has been here now for a while and Cons [Connolly] and like I said Noels [Acciari] was very reliable so I thought that line handled themselves well tonight.”
With former Habs forward Dale Weise likely making his debut tonight since being traded to Chicago last week, the Bruins fourth line will face a much tougher bottom trio vs. the Blackhawks.