By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
Finally, it is Classic time. Bruins vs Blackhawks in the 2019 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic from South Bend, Indiana – the home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This game has been much anticipated by both Original Six franchises since the day it was originally announced and not only does this game mean something for the Winter Classic itself, but for the standings of both teams as well as the playoffs become one day closer.
Boston finished the 2018 calendar year with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres off the hands of a late tying goal by Jake DeBrusk in his 100th career NHL game. Prior to that, the Bruins lost two games in a row to the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils then another three wins before that over the Predators, Ducks and Canadiens.
After being one of the worst teams in the league, the Hawks have turned their play around recently. The Blackhawks will enter the Winter Classic with a 5-1-0 record in their past six games and have managed a point in seven of their last nine outings. Even with the recent success, Chicago sits twenty-fifth in the league with a 15-20-6 record.
BOS: Tuukka Rask 9-8-2 2.67 GAA .912 SV% Last Game: 26 saves in 3-2 win vs BUF
CHI: Cam Ward 6-6-4 3.90 GAA .886 SV% Last Game: 21 Saves in 6-3 loss vs FLA
Always one of the most dangerous scoring forwards in the NHL today and for the past decade or so, Patrick Kane, is entering the Winter Classic on fire. Kane has points in seven consecutive games, including three, three-point nights. The incredible run as of late brings his 2018-19 season total to 22-28-50 in only forty games this season and currently sits 7th for most points in the NHL. The NHL has awarded Kane the 1st Star of The Week for this past week as well.
Chicago announced that Cam Ward will be the starting goaltender for the Blackhawks on New Year’s Day. In his first season as a Blackhawk after spending the first thirteen years of his career with the Carolina Hurricanes, Ward has a 6-6-4 record, a 3.90 GAA and a .886 SV%. While those numbers are not “hot” by any stretch of the imagination, but the 34-year-old goalie has won two of his last three starts and looks to do the same against Boston.
Since returning from his injury that kept him out for almost a dozen games at the start of the 2018-19 season, Torey Krug has been his usual self, scoring 4-19-23 totals in 28 games played. Krug has points in three of his last five games, including a two-point night in the 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on December 20th.
Even though Brad Marchand failed to score a point in his last game against the Carolina Hurricanes and he was out of the lineup against the Sabres, he can still be considered hot. Before the pointless game and the injury, Marchand has points in four straight, three of which were multi-point nights. Brad now has 12-29-41 totals on the season.
While top-line centre Patrice Bergeron was out of the lineup with a sternoclavicular/rib injury, David Krejci seemed to fit in nicely alongside Pastrnak and Marchand on the first line. However, since the return of Bergeron four games ago, Krejci has failed to tally a single point and has been a minus rating in each of those four contests. David’s totals on the season currently sit a 7-23-30 in thirty-nine games with a -2 rating.
Danton Heinen is still trying to find his game after a strong rookie season in 2017-2018. The 23-year-old Langley, British Columbia, Canada native only has four goals and six assists for ten points in thirty-seven games this year. During Saturday’s win against the Sabres, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy benched Heinen for a time during the game, a sign of poor play by Heinen and the Bruins need him to change as soon as possible.
Brandon Saad of the Blackhawks is supposed to be one of the best players on Chicago’s roster when it comes to scoring goals and making plays. This season, especially lately, Saad has struggled to do so. In his last seven games dating back to December 16th, Saad has only two points, two points that came in one game against the Minnesota Wild on December 27th. Brandon has 11-11-22 totals in 39 games for Chicago this season.
33-year-old defenceman Brent Seabrook has always been one of most intimidating defenders on the Blackhawks blueline, but with age, the 33-year-old has not been great in 2018-19. With no points in his last six games, Seabrook is a -11 rating on the season and is only averaging around sixteen minutes on ice per game.
Bruins vs Blackhawks Outlook
Easily one of the biggest problems for the Boston Bruins so far is inconsistency. The Bruins went 7-7-0 in the month of December and when they would win multiple games in a row, they would return with the same number of losses in a row and vice-versa. If Boston wants to improve their Winter Classic record to 2-1-0 on Tuesday, then they will have to force turnovers and capitalize on those turnovers with offensive chances. A high number of shots on Cam Ward will be important to win this game as well.
The gameplan shouldn’t be much different for the Blackhawks. Obviously, the offence will run through Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, which is nothing new and the continuous shots on Tuukka Rask could very well ruin the confidence level of Rask. The Hawks have been rolling as of late and the momentum will be quite valuable for them.
- Bruins defenseman and Captain Zdeno Chara is only two goals away from his 200th career NHL goal. While it is a tad bit unlikely that the 41-year-old scores two at the Winter Classic, but it is definitely a possibility.
- Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook has not scored a goal in his last nine games, but if he manages to shoot the puck past the Bruins redline at Notre Dame Stadium, it will be his 100th career NHL goal.
Winter Classic History:
- 1-1 record heading into 2019 Winter Classic
- 2-1 overtime win vs Philadelphia Flyers in 2010
- 5-1 loss vs Montreal Canadiens in 2016
- Will move into sole possession for second-most Winter Classic appearances in NHL history (3)
- A win ties them with NYR and WSH for most Winter Classic wins (2)
- 0-3 record heading into 2019 Winter Classic
- 6-4 loss vs Detroit Red Wings in 2009
- 3-2 loss vs Washington Capitals in 2015
- 4-1 loss vs St. Louis Blues in 2017
- 4th Winter Classic appearance most in NHL history
Prior to the big game, some of the great writers here at the Black N’ Gold Hockey website have given me their official predictions of how the game will go. I highly suggest you check out their articles and give them a follow on Twitter if you have not already.
- Evan Michael (@00EvanMichael) – 5-2 Bruins
- Rob Tomlin (@Rob40bruins) – 2-1 Bruins
- Mark Allred (@BlackAndGold277) – 3-1 Bruins
- Chris Greene (@cgreenesports) – 3-1 Bruins
- Tim Richardson (@TimARichardson) – 4-2 Bruins
- Garrett Haydon (@thesportsguy97) – 4-1 Bruins
- Mike Cratty (@Mike_Cratty) – 2-1 Bruins (OT)
- Lucas Pearson (@LucasPearson_) – 3-1 Bruins
- Ian Smith (@IanMalcolmSmith) – 5-4 Bruins
- Max Mainville (@tkdmaxbjj) – 3-2 Bruins (OT)
Now, who’s ready for some outdoor hockey?
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