By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
It is Black Friday 2018 and while shoppers frantically buzz around stores across the continent looking for the best deals out there, the Boston Bruins are back out on the ice in Boston, Massachusetts for a game against the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 EST. The two teams met last year on Black Friday, a game that saw the Bruins take a 4-3 victory.
The 11-6-4 Boston Bruins are coming off of a tough overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. The loss wrapped up a four-game road trip for the Bruins, who went 1-1-2 on the trip. Boston currently sits in fourth place in the NHL’s Atlantic division, only five points behind the leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has not had a successful start to the 2018-19 season and just recently, the tough beginning to the season will become even more difficult. The Pens are tied for dead-last in the Metropolitan division with a record of 8-8-4. Even though the Penguins have scored the fourth-most goals on a game-to-game basis in the league (3.45 goals-for-per-game), they have allowed the eighth-most goals-per-game out of any other team.
Even though it has only been two goals, forward Jakub Forsbacka Karlsson has two goals in his first six games in the National Hockey League. He scored his second goal against the Red Wings loss, opening up the scoring in the first period. The Bruins coaching staff has clearly noticed JFK’s work so far, rewarding him with first-line minutes alongside Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have had to put the team on their shoulders with the absence of locker room leaders Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron and they have continued to play good hockey. Marchand assisted on the game-winning goal by Jake DeBrusk in the Bruins’ only win on the road trip on Saturday, November 17th against the Arizona Coyotes.
Jaroslav Halak remains statistically the best current goalie on the Bruins roster. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced earlier in the day that the Bratislava, Slovakia native will get the starting role in Boston versus the Penguins. In twelve starts this season, Halak has a 7-2-2 record with a 2.07 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage. Jaro Halak also has wins in four of his last five starts, with his last loss coming on November 14th against the Colorado Avalanche, allowing six goals against.
Evgeni Malkin has been on fire as usual for Pittsburgh. Malkin has eight points in the last five games for the Pens, bringing his 2018-19 season totals to 8-20-28 in only twenty games – the highest on the Penguins roster. Phil Kessel leads Pittsburgh in goals, with ten on the year for twenty-five points.
Sidney Crosby (did you guess?) is coming off of a three-point night in the Wednesday night 5-1 over the Stars. The offence for the Penguins really showed up in that game and Crosby was right in the thick of it all. Sid the Kid now has 9-13-22 totals in 17 games this season.
With Matt Murray on the injured reserve due to a lower-body injury, the Penguins will be forced to rely on goaltender Tristan Jarry. Jarry has been playing the entirety of the ’18/’19 season in the American Hockey League with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, having a season record of 4-5-1, a GAA of 2.89, and a save percentage of .909. Jarry did go 14-6-2 in the 2017-18 campaign, but while in the midst of a poor AHL season and making his first NHL start of the year, it will be a challenge for him against the Bruins.
Jack Johnson, who signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract with Pittsburgh in this past offseason has not lived up to the signing as of this point of the season. In 20 games, Johnson has 1-5-6 totals but has the worst plus/minus rating on the Pens with a -10 rating.
Danton Heinen has still not yet found his permanent groove with the Bruins so far this season, scoring only five points in the nineteen games that he has skated his thus far. Heinen will once again get another opportunity in the top-six with Patrice Bergeron out of the lineup, playing on the left side of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
Bruins vs Penguins Outlook
This is the first of three meetings between the Penguins and Bruins this season, with the next one coming on December 14th in Pittsburgh. Both teams have had their good moments and poor moments but will be looking to get a big win over the opposing team and carry that forward heading into the final month of 2018.
The Bruins announced today that defencemen Kevan Miller and John Moore will return to the lineup tonight while Steven Kampfer and Anders Bjork will be the scratches. This will be Miller’s first game since October 18th, missing the time due to a hand injury. Moore, on the other hand, has been out for three games with a lower-body injury. While Miller or Moore are not top-tier defencemen such as Charlie McAvoy or Zdeno Chara, but at this point, any man returning to the lineup is a positive for Boston.
Colby Cave will get the third-line centre role and JFK will man the first-line role as previously mentioned. It will be interesting to see how both do tonight.
The Bruins will need the goal support to shake Tristan Jarry early and hopefully decrease his confidence for the remainder of the game. With Moore and Miller back in the lineup, the blueline looks a lot better for Boston and it will be pivotal for the team to shut down the powerful Pittsburgh offence. Nonetheless, it will be a good game for all fans of the sport.
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