Bruins Look To Start The New Year Off Right Against The Islanders

IMG_1707.JPG (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

By Mike Cratty                                                   Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

The Bruins will finish up a three-game road trip to begin 2018 as they face the New York Islanders tonight. Previously, the road trip featured a 5-0 home win over the Ottawa Senators and a 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. Their plates will be full in their second meeting with the Islanders of the 2017-2018 season as they boast a potent, high-scoring offense. The pinnacle of their high scoring comes from their top line consisting of Anders Lee, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey. Bailey (50) and Tavares (49) have the second and fourth most points in the NHL respectively, with Anders Lee sitting at 16th in points (39) and second in goals (24). Talk about a juggernaut that will acquire a significant amount of attention to stop to any degree.

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The Islanders sit in fifth place in the tightly packed Metropolitan division with a record of 20-15-4 and 44 points. One interesting thing to note about the New York Islanders is their goals for and goals against per game numbers. They average 3.44 goals as a team per game, good for third in the NHL, but allow the most goals on average per game with 3.54. Interesting how that works out. Looking at the matchup in that sense, it is clear that the Bruins will need to limit their top scorers as best as they possibly can, and expose their weak goaltending. Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk, two top-four caliber defensemen for the Islanders, will be out of the lineup tonight, so getting pucks deep and pressuring their depleted defensive core should be a big priority for the Bruins tonight. Jaroslav Halak will be in the cage for the Isles, opposed by the NHL’s first star of December, Tuukka Rask. Take this in – after receiving flack due to a rough start to the year, Tuukka Rask was nearly unstoppable, finishing December with a 9-0-1 record, a 1.22 GAA, and a .955 save percentage.

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The Bruins need to just keep doing what they’re doing. It’s as simple as that. While their top line hasn’t been its best, the bottom-six forwards have helped carry the load. Their defensive core is slowly continuing to gain legitimacy.

I credit a lot of this to the rejuvenation of Zdeno Chara. The presence of Charlie McAvoy on his pairing has allowed him to be a little more comfortable with age it seems. Teams pay attention to and gameplan for Charlie McAvoy much more than Chara’s past defensive partners, allowing to Chara to do what he does at a higher level. With three games in hand on the Toronto Maple Leafs (23-15-2), who are tied with the Bruins (21-10-6) for second place in the Atlantic division with 48 points, a win tonight in regulation and a Toronto loss could propel the Bruins into sole possession of second place. If the Tampa Bay Lightning keep up their torrid pace and beat the Maple Leafs tonight, this could be a pretty doable task for the Bruins. Here are tonight’s projected lines for both teams:

Islanders

Forwards

Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey

Andrew Ladd – Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle

Shane Prince – Brock Nelson – Tanner Fritz

Jason Chimera – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck

Defense

Nick Leddy – Adam Pelech

Thomas Hickey – Ryan Pulock

Sebastian Aho – Scott Mayfield

Goalies

Jaroslav Halak

Thomas Greiss

Bruins

Forwards

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Ryan Spooner

Danton Heinen – Riley Nash – David Backes

Tim Schaller – Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari

Defense

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller

Goalies

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

The Bruins, 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, will look to continue to roll against the New York Islanders tonight. Tuukka Rask, coming off his 40th career shutout, will look to pick up right where he left off late in 2017 to aid in doing so.

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