By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob
The Boston Bruins will defend home ice on Thursday in a matchup with the Vancouver Canucks. Though they are 1st in the Pacific Division with a 9-6-1 record, the Canucks have 53 goals against through 16 games this season – pegging them 26th in the league in that statistic.
The Bruins sport an 8-4-2 record and are currently ranked 3rd in the Atlantic Division. They defeated the Dallas Stars on Monday in a 2-1 grind that required overtime to settle the affair. Boston will look to string together two wins for just the third time this season. Meanwhile, Vancouver will look to avoid dropping two games in a row for the third time in the young campaign.
David Pastrnak is currently tied with Alexander Ovechkin for the most goals through the early stages of the 2018-19 season. Four of his 12 goals have come on the power play and he has been a focal point of Boston’s offense – the Bruins tend to look to Pastrnak in key situations such as the power play and extended zone time. It’s a pretty good strategy given Pastrnak’s 20.7 shooting percentage through the first 14 games of the campaign.
Brad Marchand scored the game-winning overtime goal against the Dallas Stars on Monday and has proven to be one of Boston’s most-clutch performers in history. Though he has just five goals this season, Marchand has focused more on his playmaking abilities by tallying 11 helpers. He does lead the Bruins in penalty minutes, however, with 46. The next highest is that of Zdeno Chara who has just 14. Marchand needs to do a better job of staying out of the box so he can continue to contribute to Boston’s offense.
If you’ve been paying attention to hockey this season, you’ve probably heard of Elias Pettersson. The rookie is taking the NHL by storm with 10 goals and six assists in 10 appearances. The 20-year-old is threatening to become a superstar for years to come and leads all rookies in scoring. Pettersson is leading the charge in terms of Vancouver’s offense.
Bo Horvat, who scored the overtime goal against Boston in the two teams’ first matchup of the season, has also been lethal with seven goals and four assists in 16 games. Another threat comes in the form of Brock Boeser who has four goals and seven assists in just 13 games. All three of the aforementioned Canucks are ages 23 or under. Speed is a huge part of their game, so Boston’s battered defense must be up to the challenge.
Boston’s depth is still in question. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Pastrnak, and Marchand are the only Bruins players with point totals in the double-digits to start the year. The next highest producer in terms of forwards comes in the form of Jake DeBrusk who has three goals and an assist. The lines have consistently been juggled, but an answer has yet to be found. Once again, this a problem Boston needs to solve quickly. The first line is basically carrying the team at this point, and if the Bruins can’t find a solution, they won’t be making a push for the Stanley Cup anytime soon.
Brandon Sutter hasn’t had a tremendous season thus far for the Canucks. He only appeared in 61 games last season but managed to tally 11 goals and 15 assists. So far this season, Sutter has just four points and is a minus-eight. The former Penguin needs to find a way to reverse his woes as Vancouver’s depth continues to struggle much like Boston’s.
Bruins vs. Canucks Outlook
Both Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Miller are still out with injuries, leaving holes on Boston’s defense. Luckily, the Bruins acquired Steven Kampfer who has been able to fill in as a solid third-pair defenseman. Matt Grzelcyk has also returned to action after missing time to an injury himself which bodes well for the Bruins’ ability to move the puck through the neutral zone.
Jaroslav Halak will get the start for Boston on Thursday night. Halak is 4-1-2 with a 1.45 GAA and a .952 SV%, leading the league in both statistics. With that in mind, the goaltender – who many assumed would be a backup entering the 2018-19 season – is an early frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy.
The Canucks will also be riding their first line for the most part as they wait for their depth to kick in. Pettersson is their biggest threat and will likely tally at least one point before the contest is done.
If I were a betting man, I would be putting my money down on a high-scoring affair. Halak has been solid, but Boston’s defense is battered and may not be able to keep up with Vancouver’s young guns. On the other hand, Vancouver has given up more goals against than most teams in the league which bodes well for Boston’s top line.
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