Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (29-12-5, 63 points, 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division) @ Boston Bruins (27-9-12, 66 points, 1st place Atlantic Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, NESN in Boston, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Boston just finished a three-game-in-four-day road trip where they only went 1-1-1; first defeating NYI 3-2 (in OT) last Saturday, then losing in a shootout 6-5 to Philly on Monday and finally getting shutout 3-0 in Columbus on Tuesday night.
Key Stat: Boston’s nine regulation losses are a league-low. And they’ve been almost impossible to defeat at regulation at home going 15-2-9 at TD Garden so far. However, get them in a shootout and they forget what to do, going 0-7 this season.
Pens path ahead: The Pens have four more games before their bye week/all-star break (no Pittsburgh games Jan 22nd-30th). Tonight, then a quick trip out to Detroit to face the hapless Red Wings tomorrow night, followed by meeting back up with these Bruins in Pittsburgh for a Sunday 12:30 matinee NBC game. Then the Pens go into the break with a bang, playing @Philadelphia next Tuesday.
Season Series: The Bruins defeated the Pens 6-4 back on November 4th in Boston...These two games this week will be the final PIT/BOS regular season games of the year.
Recent History: Playing IN Boston has been a house of horrors for the Pens, they’re 0-6-1 in Beantown dating back to December 2015. However, overall in the last 10 PIT/BOS games, the Pens are 5-4-1, so they’ve mitigated that by being good at home.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out our pals at Stanley Cup of Chowder for the perspective from the other side
Tale of the tape
—The Bruins are quite the formidable team that is well-rounded and good at about everything. They score a lot of goals (especially on the power play) and they get some of the best goaltending in the league at even strength (and don’t give up a lot while short handed either).
—The Pens, for their part, are seeing their power play inch towards 20% and the top half of the league rankings for the first time practically all season. With Crosby back in the mix one would think that is coming soon. 5v5 shooting% for Pittsburgh is also spiking and now above 9% after opening up a can on Minnesota last game. We’ll see that fluctuate but about 9% sounds right for a team with a lot of shooting talent.
—Speaking of the Boston power play: beware Pastrnak. The high-flying Czech has a NHL leading 16 PPG this season, four more than anyone else in the league. Torey Krug (18 PP assists) and Brad Marchand (17 PPA) are the focal points of distributing the puck while on the power play this season.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Welcome to the big time, David Pastrnak. Sure he’s already been a star player scoring 70+ points the last three seasons and 80+ in the last two, but this year it’s gone to a different level. Pasta leads the league in goals (and is on a pace for 61!) and has three hat tricks this season already. He also ranks fifth in the NHL in points.
—Besides one of the most elite lines in the league in the three leading scorer, you can see why Boston is heavy in the rumors to add a player like Chris Kreider or Tyler Toffoli, much like the Pens are. Boston could use a secondary scorer to add depth and balance to their team. And why is it always Pittsburgh and Boston battling it out for the big trade deadline prize?
Possible Lines (based on last game)
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Anders Bjork
Danton Heinen - Charlie Coyle - Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
John Moore - Steven Kampfer
Expected Scratches: Matt Grzelcyk (healthy), Par Lindholm, David Backes
Injured Reserve: Connor Clifton, Kevan Miller
—Grzelcyk was a healthy scratch for the first time this season last game after the coach wasn’t thrilled with how he had been playing, so I guess we’ll see if he get back into the lineup quickly. Feels like he usually plays well against the Pens, so hey, if they want to hold him out, sounds good here!
—Brett Ritchie was also placed on waivers, so perhaps he will be out for this one? Stay tuned I suppose..
Tuukka injury sets Boston back
The Bruins will have a challenge with their starting goalie suffering a concussion on Tuesday. Tuukka Rask is not expected to play tonight, but backup and noted Penguin killer Jaroslav Halak hasn’t been in the best form as of late. Halak is just 1-2-1 in calendar 2020 with a ghastly 3.73 goals against average and just a .866 save percentage. By contrast Halak has a .943 save% in his four games in calendar 2020, so the B’s will need Halak to revert back to his typical above-average self in the immediate future since he’ll be called on to carry the load until Rask is healthy again.
Boston will have to recall an AHL goalie, and they do have 27-year old Max Lagace in the system who played 17 games with NHL Vegas, but not very well with a .868 career NHL save%.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Tueday game)
Jared McCann - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Dominik Kahun - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Alex Galchenyuk - Andrew Agozzino - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Kevin Czuczman (healthy), Sam Lafferty (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder), Justin Schultz (lower body injury)
—It was minor but interesting that Agozzino got the nod over Lafferty last game. Lafferty might be settling into more of a 13th forward role if the team is seeing him more as a winger option these days and the RW side is pretty full at the moment. Even then, there’s only Bjugstad to return soon, slotting him in Agozzino’s spot might be the team’s lineup moving forward until a trade is made to replace Galchenyuk and/or upgrade the Crosby RW spot.
—With a back-to-back set and a very weak Detroit team tomorrow night, one would think the goalie rotation would be Tristan Jarry today versus Boston and then Matt Murray against Detroit. However, if one were to bet early on Mike Sullivan’s goalie rotation and decisions one would probably lose a lot of money this season so it’ll take to the pre-game skate to see which goalie leaves first to gain insight on the Pens’ plans for this b-2-b in the net.