By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob
The Boston Bruins travel north of the border on Saturday to rekindle one of the best rivalries in hockey with the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins snagged six of the eight available points in their last four games, most recently topping the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime on Friday.
On the other hand, the Canadiens march into the fray with an 11-7-5 record, trailing the B’s by just one point. With both teams currently in wild-card positions, this game could go a long way in determining the Eastern Conference’s playoff tree by the season’s end.
Joakim Nordstrom notched the game-winning goal on Friday against the Penguins. It was the first overtime goal of his career, coming off a deflection on Torey Krug’s shot from the point. The tally was Nordstrom’s fourth of the season. It seems that his moving up and down the lineup has not hampered his game thus far. Even when he’s not producing, Nordstrom has been impressive and has proven to be a great free-agent acquisition.
David Krejci has been asked to fill the skates of Patrice Bergeron on the first line. While that’s a tall order, Krejci has done his best and has made the most of the extra ice time. The centerman registered a helper in Friday’s game but was also partially responsible for Nordstrom’s goal. The 32-year-old made a stellar play along the boards to keep the puck in the zone at the end of a long 3-on-3 shift. That possession eventually resulted in Nordstrom’s heroic deflection.
Max Domi has proven to be a great addition for the Habs. The 23-year-old leads the team in scoring with 11 goals and 15 assists through 23 games. He recently had an 11-game point streak going that came to an end on Friday in Buffalo. Domi will certainly be looking to pick apart are damaged Bruins defense and a hot-and-cold Tuukka Rask.
Jonathan Drouin, one of Domi’s linemates, has registered eight goals and 11 assists so far this season. Seven of his 19 points have come on the man advantage which has been keeping Montreal’s power play out of the dog house. The Habs have a 14.6% execution rate when up a man, while the league’s average is 20.7%.
Noel Acciari has remained almost silent for the Bruins. He has just one point in 19 games and is a minus-6. The depth forward has bounced around Boston’s bottom-six this season, averaging 11:36 in ice time per game.
Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen have continued to struggle with the hockey blues. Neither forward has registered a point since November 11th. Though they have had some good shifts, execution is the trait they have lacked which is something they need to turn around. Bjork was scratched for Friday’s game which could be a sign of things to come if he can’t find the scoresheet.
Matthew Peca has struggled on Montreal’s third line. He has come up with just six points in 21 games while earning a plus-minus rating of minus-5. He’s been averaging less than 16 shifts per game and needs to up his game to give the Habs some much-needed secondary scoring.
Bruins vs. Canadiens Outlook
The Bruins have a tough test in front of them in the form of Montreal. The Canadiens weren’t originally expected to be a competitive team this season. However, they have proven the naysayers wrong and will be in contention for a playoff spot if they continue to compete at the level they have been.
The Bruins will likely need Rask to stand on his head much like Jaroslav Halak was forced to on Friday. While they aren’t facing the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Habs have some lethal scorers who will make a mess of Boston if they are not careful. Meanwhile, the Canadiens will look to take advantage of Boston’s banged-up defense and a number of rookies taking the ice for the Bruins on Saturday.
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