Who: Boston Bruins (42-17-9; 93 points, 2nd place in Atlantic Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (36-23-9; 81 points, 4th place in Metropolitan division)
When: 7:30 p.m. Eastern (the rare home Sunday night game)
How to Watch: Nationally broadcast game on NBCSN
Opponent Track: Key date is January 19th. That’s the last time Boston lost in regulation (3-2 to NYR). That’s even before the All-Star break! Since that point they’re 15-0-4 and currently on a six game winning streak after scoring a last minute goal last night at home to beat Ottawa. But, if you dare to take an optimistic view, Boston has played in four straight one goal games, and defeated only one decent team in those four games (4-3 over FLA, 4-3 (OT) over Carolina, 1-0 over NJD). So it’s not like they’re blowing teams out lately, they’re just finding way to beat mostly bad teams so far this month. But, wins are wins.
(And, just to remember how good Tampa is...They’re still 15 points up on Boston, a team that hasn’t lost in regulation in almost 2 full months. The other division leaders in the league have cushions of 1, 1 and 2 points. Then you get to Tampa’s 15. Boston’s 93 points though ranks #2 in the NHL though, this isn’t to run them down, it just shows how waaaaay in front of the entire league that Tampa is.)
Pens Refresh: Despite two legit save of the year candidates from Matt Murray the Pens couldn’t get a season sweep of Columbus last night, losing 4-1 in Ohio. That breaks a six game point streak for Pittsburgh.
Season Series: It feels like the Bruins always give the Pens problems, but really, it’s just that the Penguins can’t win IN Boston. Luckily this game will be in Pittsburgh. Boston won 2-1 (OT) in Beantown on Nov 23rd, the Pens won 5-3 on Dec 14. This is the last game of the season series. between BOS/PIT
SBN team blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder
Player Stats at a Glance
—The strength of the top players (and usual top line) of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastranak can’t be denied, they’re definitely one of the most dangerous lines in the entire league. Behind that it’s more scoring by committee. Pastranak won’t play today due to injury.
—Two great years for both goalies with almost identical stats from GAA to save percentage. As to be expected, Tuukka Rask has been getting more of the starter’s workload lately, starting five of the last seven games. Rask got the nod yesterday against Ottawa, so brace yourself Pens fans, it only makes sense that the big, bad Jaroslav Halak should be in net today.
—One thing sort of lost in the shuffle of this great point streak is the recently acquired Charlie Coyle has no goals or even points in his first seven games as a Bruin. Also, if you can believe it, a player who always gets hurt in Marcus Johansson, got hurt just four games into his stint in Boston and was hospitalized
Possible Lines (from yesterday’s game)
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Dalton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - David Krejci - Lee Stempniak
Peter Cehlarik - Charlie Coyle - David Backes
Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara / Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug / Brandon Carlo
John Moore / Matt Grzelcyk
Injuries: David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Marcus Johansson, Kevan Miller
—A sneaky amount of injured players for Boston right now
—Stempniak, 36, made his NHL season-debut yesterday. He’s only played 8 AHL games this season, recently signing with Boston for the remainder of the regular season, in part for depth due to all the injuries that they are dealing with.
And now for the Penguins...Possible Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Zach Aston-Reese-Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Jared McCann - Nick Bjugstad - Patric Hornqvist
Teddy Blueger- Matt Cullen- Garrett Wilson
Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Gudbranson
Brian Dumoulin / Zach Trotman
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy), Kris Letang (illness? and upper body injury), Chad Ruhwedel (upper), Bryan Rust (lower)
Injured Reserve: Olli Maatta (upper body)
Eye on the Standings
Last night’s results push Carolina (36 Regulation OT Wins) pass Pittsburgh (35 ROW) for the tiebreaker into third place in the division.
The grouping of wildcard teams is now 79-81 points with 4 teams (CAR, PIT, CBJ, MTL) vying for just 3 seats of musical chairs. Columbus’ win last night against Pittsburgh steadies a team and gives a badly needed boost to stay with the pack.
The Athletic has the Pens with a 93% chance of making the playoffs still, so they are in a strong position. (At 44% it’s Montreal their simulations seeing as having the toughest odds at this point).
Key to the Game
Who has gas in the tank?
Both Boston and Pittsburgh played last night, and had to travel to the ‘Burgh too in preparation for this game. Both teams are banged up, but both are also finding ways not to lose too many games in regulation. The B’s are almost always playing one goal and OT games these days, keeping it close, hanging tight and then finding ways usually to win.
The Pens need to match that level of play and desperation, but they won’t need any lessons in how to keep grinding. It will be interesting to see how aggressive Boston’s forecheck is, the fact Pittsburgh as one defenseman on every pair that can’t move the puck is resulting in a lot of turnovers, icings, and getting pinned in their own zone for extended shifts. Finding room and opportunity to leave the zone with control and hopefully stay out of it for a while will be key for Pittsburgh.