Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (27-11-8, 62 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division) @ Boston Bruins (26-14-3, 54 points, 4th place Atlantic Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, NESN in Boston, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Like the Pens, the Bruins have not played since last Tuesday, Feb. 1st, in what was a 3-2 home win for them over Seattle. Another way these two teams are alike is that both had a tremendous start to 2022; Pittsburgh has a 10-3-3 record in the new year, picking up 23 points in 16 games. Boston has even bettered that, going 12-4-1 to add 25 points in 17 games in the first segment of 2022.
Pens Path Ahead: This starts three in a row on the road for Pittsburgh, who head to Ottawa for the next game on Thursday. The trip comes to an end in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. The Pens are back in Pittsburgh a week from today to host the Flyers.
Hidden Stat: The Pens are just 1-9-2 in TD Garden Arena over the last 12 games dating back to 2015, though they did win there in one of two games in Boston last April.
Trivia Question: Evgeni Malkin will have his point streak get officially broken tonight since he won’t play. Malkin had nine straight games with a point. There have been two Pens with 10+ game point streaks, which two players on the team would Malkin have been attempting to join?
Season Series: This is the first Pens/Bruins game of the season, and the teams don’t meet again for quite a while (April 16th, in Boston again). The Bruins will then make their only scheduled trip to Pittsburgh this for the third and final regular season PIT/BOS game on April 21st.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Check out Stanley Cup of Chowder for the news to know about the Bruins.
—The usual top line of Boston remains their leading scorers and leads the way. A notch below, the team could use more secondary scoring and will be a key team to track in the lead up to the deadline as they perhaps attempt to acquire a player like Tomas Hertl to really boost their team.
—Though more known for his antics and rat-like reputation, Brad Marchand is a sneaky huge point producer. He’s fourth in the NHL in scoring from 2017-18-present with 390 points in 308 games (148G+242A), trailing only Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. Pastrnak (348 points) isn’t far behind in eighth place.
—Tuukka Rask is back, signing last month and working his way back into the league. But Rask is not practicing this week while dealing with “body issues for his age” as coach Bruce Cassidy so delicately put it yesterday. Rask’s results have been mixed — he’s alternated giving up 2 goals, 5 goals, 2 and then 5 in his four starts.
—The duo of Linus Ullmark and youngster Jeremy Swayman have generally done OK for the Bruins so far this season, both with slightly above average save percentages. That Rask needs a week off this week after not playing last week doesn’t seem the best start for his return, even if longer-term they’ll be looking to see how he is for April/May more than what his form is now in January/February.
Monday Practice Lines
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Craig Smith
Taylor Hall - Erik Haula - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - Charlie Coyle - Oskar Steen
Nick Foligno - Curtis Lazar - Tomas Nosek
Matt Grzelcyk / Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly / Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort / Connor Clifton
Goalies: Linus Ullmark (Jeremy Swayman)
Scratches: Anton Blidh, Tuukka Rask, Urho Vaakanainen
IR: Trent Frederic, Jakub Zboril
—Interesting to see the “perfection line” split up a bit, with Pastrnak not working with Marchand and Bergeron. This talent split does balance the top-six quite a bit and probably will get Pasta a bit more looks away from Dumoulin/Letang than otherwise.
—Frederic was practicing yesterday, rotating on the fourth line. I haven’t seen for sure if he will play or not today, but he doesn’t look far away from returning.
Great defensive process
Outside of that top line, Boston doesn’t have a super-imposing lineup on paper. Yet they sit comfortably on a path to the playoffs. How? One of the best coached and defensive structures has made them among the elite teams in the NHL this season.
Team Defence Rankings - February 5 pic.twitter.com/vhwJgnrx54— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 5, 2022
And while their offensive talent level isn’t necessarily much to write home about, the elite players almost always show up and just based on them plus the occasional chip in from others like Taylor Hall, Boston still boasts a slightly above-league average offense.
Team Expected Goals For Rankings - February 5 pic.twitter.com/AjeRGMWaUQ— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 5, 2022
The Pens join Calgary and Tampa as the only teams with top-10 results in both xGF and xGA at this point of the season.
And now for the Pens..
Monday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen - Evan Rodrigues - Radim Zohorna
Zach Aston-Reese - Brian Boyle - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Valtteri Puustinen, Michael Chaput
COVID Protocol: Evgeni Malkin
IR: Drew O’Connor (practicing in non-contact jersey), Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Louis Domingue, Teddy Blueger (week-to-week, broken jaw)
—The Pens flew to Boston yesterday and then had an afternoon practice on the road with the lines above. The new call-ups in Chaput and Puustinen were working as extras. There were as few changes as practically possible to move on from the Malkin COVID designation with Rodrigues shifting back to center and then keeping the fourth line the same and giving the Carter+Kapanen duo another look.
—Danton Heinen missed the last two games before the break with a minor injury but was in a regular contact jersey and probably figures to be back in the game against the team that drafted him.
“That’s Rust-tastic” —Billy Madison voice
Bryan Rust has been about as red hot as can be in the games he has played this season. From the Pens PR department:
Bryan Rust registered his second-consecutive two-goal game in Pittsburgh last game on Feb. 1, marking his team-leading fifth multi-goal game of the season. Since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, Rust’s 13 multi-goal games are most on the Penguins, and are tied for 10th in the NHL. Among Eastern Conference skaters, only Auston Matthews (26), Alex Ovechkin (23), Sebastian Aho (17), David Pastrnak (17) and Brad Marchand (15) have multi-goal efforts in that span than Rust.
This season, Rust has recorded multiple points in 41% of his games played (10/24), and his 1.33 points-per-game average ranks seventh in the NHL:
Player GP PTS PTS/GM
Nikita Kucherov 11 17 1.55
Leon Draisaitl 42 63 1.50
Nazem Kadri 41 60 1.46
Connor McDavid 41 60 1.46
Nathan MacKinnon 31 43 1.39
Jonathan Huberdeau 47 64 1.36
Bryan Rust 24 32 1.33
Milestone and streak watch
- As mentioned, Evgeni Malkin is still currently riding an nine game point streak (3G+7A), which is the second longest active streak in the NHL behind Minnesota’s Kevin Fiala (12) but will officially come to an end by missing a game.
- Sidney Crosby is two goals away from the career number of 500.
- Zach Aston-Reese is set to appear in career game number 200 tonight.
Trivia answer: Easy one today, huh? Jake Guentzel had an official 13 game point streak from Nov 13-Dec 6 (even though through injury break it was longer). Kris Letang recently had a 10 gamer of his own (Jan 2-21). Sadly, Malkin won’t be joining that group via his absence of not being able to play.