Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-0, 8 points, 2nd place in the Eastern Division) @ Boston Bruins (3-1-1, 7 points, 4th place Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, NESN in Boston. In Canada, check SN360 and TVAS
Opponent Track: The Bruins started the season off trading a shootout win in the opener against NJD with an OTL to NJD in the second game. Then Boston lost 1-0 to NYI, followed by the Bruins beating the Flyers twice over the weekend: 5-4 (SO) and 6-1.
Hidden stat: 6/11 total games these two teams have played have gone to overtime. Both teams have excelled too, going 5-1 in those contests and combining to go 4-0 in shootouts.
Pens path ahead: One more in Boston on Thursday, then the Penguins scoot down to NYC to play the Rangers again for two games starting on Saturday (January 30th) and the following Monday (February 1st).
Season Series: After these two games, we won’t see another BOS/PIT game until March 15+16 (in Pittsburgh). The Pens return to Boston for a second and final time on April 1+3 and the Bruins make their second trip to the ‘Burgh on April 25+27.
Recent History: The Penguins have had almost unimaginable struggles in Boston recently. The Pens last win in TD Garden Arena was November 24th, 2014 (which even that took an Evgeni Malkin OT goal), and it adds up to the Pens being 0-7-1 in their last eight trips to Beantown. Ironically enough, the Bruins have had the same problem — the Pens are 6-0 vs Boston IN Pittsburgh, with the Bruins last when in the ‘Burgh coming December 18th, 2015. Will the lack of a crowd now erase this advantage? It will be interesting to find out
SBN Team Counterpart: Grab a warm mug and some Stanley Cup of Chowder over at our Boston blog.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Brad Marchand has apparently recovered nicely from off-season surgery and is productive as ever at the top of the Boston lineup with his longtime linemate and new Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron.
—As if it couldn’t be worse for the Pens playing in a building they haven’t won in since the Dan Bylsma era, Jaroslav Halak remains with the B’s and also has been in very good form early in the season. How swell!
#NHLBruins practice lines:— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 25, 2021
Marchand - Lindholm - DeBrusk
Ritchie - Krejci - Pastrnak/Studnicka
Frederic - Coyle - Smith
Bjork - Kuraly - Wagner
Lauzon - McAvoy
Clifton - Carlo
Zboril - Miller
Absent: Bergeron, Grzelcyk pic.twitter.com/aAs2gXJ8be
—David Pastrnak rejoined his teammates in practice following a September hip surgery, but he is not expected to play this week in the two game series against the Penguins (luckily enough for Pittsburgh).
—The Pens won’t be so fortunate with Bergeron. He got to take practice off after being banged up a little in the Bruins’ previous game, but coach Bruce Cassidy was quoted yesterday as saying “Expect him to play tomorrow,” so there’s that.
—Matt Grzelcyk will be a player to watch, the defenseman missed the Bruins last game and is questionable for today. Cassidy said depending on how he handles the morning skate, Grzelcyk “has a chance” to play today, so that will bear watching today.
Expected starting goalie: ?
Scratches: John Moore (healthy)
IR: Ondrej Kase, David Pastrnak
Taxi Squad: Trent Frederic, Par Lindholm, Greg McKegg, Dan Vladar, Urho Vaakanainen
He said it
Jakub Zboril on his comfort level through the season's first five games: "Since the first game, I've grabbed the chance and done what I've been told to do...I'm having a blast right now." pic.twitter.com/sUHqE0k4HD— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 25, 2021
The young defenseman and former first round pick has finally gotten a steady opportunity to play for Boston, in large part to the free agent defections of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara.
And now for the Pens..
Player stats at a glance
—After a slow start in the first few games, Bryan Rust is back in the saddle with a four game point streak and playing up to his capability. Let’s hope Malkin is next!
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Jared McCann - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Colton Sceviour - Mark Jankowski - Sam Lafferty/Drew O’Connor
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
John Marino / Cody Ceci
Pierre-Olivier Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel
Scratches: Juuso Riikola (upper body injury), Marcus Pettersson (upper body injury), Evan Rodrigues (lower body injury)
Expected starting goalie: Tristan Jarry
IR: Zach Aston-Reese, Mike Matheson
Taxi Squad: Alex D’Orio, Maxime Lagace, Sam Lafferty. Drew O’Connor, Kevin Czuczman
—We’ll see which taxi squad member gets the call up to the official roster today to replace the injured Rodrigues.
3 keys to the game:
- Sid vs Pat. Though Crosby does have 16 points in his last 12 games against the Bruins, that includes only three goals. Few players in the league matchup and are as successful at stymieing the Pens as the Bergeron matchup Boston can get last change at home. This is no doubt a contributing reason as to why it’s been since 2014 as to when the Pens have last won in Boston. Crosby has been one of the best faceoff takers in the NHL at 61.7% so far this season. Bergeron isn’t far behind him at 60.9%. Bergeron is one of the few players Crosby struggles with for head-to-head battles in the faceoff circles, it’ll be interesting to see if that trend continues or if Sid will rise to the occasion and get the better of one of his main center rivals. The battle of the first line centers and team captains will set the tone for both teams all night long.
- What style wins?. The Bruins have scored an average of 2.6 goals/game and given up 2.0 goals/game for a total of a minimal 4.6 goals/game in the young season. They’re defensive, games are tight, battles for open ice and fighting to get to key places on the ice are at a premium. The Penguins...do not really play like that. They’ll trade end-to-end rushes, they want speed, getting to open ice and having track meets. Pittsburgh has scored 3.17 goals/game and has allowed 3.83 goals/game for 7 goals/game. (The Pens would like to play better defensive and get a few more saves, doubtlessly). But what style wins? Is it a 3-2 game like Boston has been playing? Or a 4-3 type of game like the Pens have been? That might sound similar enough but will be a big difference if goals are plentiful or if defenses are stout, particularly the Boston defense (their 22.6 shots allowed lead the NHL so far).
- Cracking the PK. Boston has given their opponents 20 power plays this season, and killed off 18 of them. The Bruins also have a SH goal to their credit, so to say their PK has been effective would be putting it mildly. The Pens’ power play, though it didn’t get any chances in their last game, has scored goals in 3 of the last 5 times they’ve had a man-advantage. This will be a strength-on-strength type of matchup, and very beneficial for the Pens if they can pierce what has been an almost perfect Boston PK for the start of the season.