Bruins Game 44 Preview: Washington Capitals

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PHOTO CREDITS: (USA Today Sports Images)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

The Bruins are rolling and tonight, the team will look to continue their hot streak against the Washington Capitals in Boston. With wins in five consecutive games for Boston, the Bruins have vaulted themselves to a divisional playoff spot, overtaking the Buffalo Sabres who the B’s have defeated two times in the last two weeks. Boston now enters this game with a 25-14-4 record (54 points) and have a two-point lead on Buffalo (52 points) and a three-point cushion on the Canadiens, who they meet on Monday.

The Washington Capitals are on a winning streak as well – winning their last two games against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. Prior to that though, the Capitals lost three consecutive games to the Predators, Blues, and Stars. Heading into the game, the Caps lead the always-competitive Metropolitan division with a 26-14-2 record (56 points). The Penguins (54 points) and Blue Jackets (51 points) are on their tails and the Islanders (50 points) are out of a playoff spot, looking to get back in.

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Jaroslav Halak 13-6-2 2.36 GAA .926 SV% Last Game: 33 Saves in 6-4 win vs CGY

WSH: Braden Holtby 16-10-2 2.89 GAA .910 SV% Last Game: 23 Saves in 3-2 vs DET

Who’s Hot

Patrice Bergeron has always been a good player in the NHL, but lately, he has been a really great player. In the win over Minnesota, Bergeron scored a goal and added two assists for a three-point night, his third multi-point game in his last four outings. The 33-year-old centre now has 14-24-38 totals in only 27 games this season. His 1.41 points-per-game is the sixth best in the league.

Like Bergeron, the rest of the Bruins top line has had a great last few games. Brad Marchand also had three points over the Wild, scoring once and adding a pair of assists as well. Marchand had a two-goal night against the Flames on January 3rd as well. Marchand is catching up to Pastrnak for the team’s lead in points as he now possesses 16-31-47 totals in 42 contests this year.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Capitals forward Jakub Vrana has had a slow season as we pass over the halfway mark of the 2018-19 campaign, but his tides may be changing. In the 5-3 victory over the Flyers, Vrana scored two goals, including the game-winning goal in the second period. Jakub’s primary assist helped open the scoring on Tom Wilson’s goal in the first frame.

NHL bad-guy Tom Wilson has thirteen goals, eight assists and twenty-one points in only 23 games this season and has scored goals in each of his last two games. Expected to get first line time with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, the Capitals would like another solid game with some scoring from Wilson tonight against a tough Bruins team.

Michal Kempny at 28-years-old has become one of the top defensemen on Washington’s active roster and he is scheduled to get another game on the top pairing alongside of John Carlson. Kempny has 5-10-25 totals along with an outstanding +25 rating – a statistic that he ranks fifth in the entire league on. He is currently averaging a career-high 19:21 minutes per game this season.

Who’s Not

Bruins forward Ryan Donato has not been good this year – a disappointing reality for many Bruins fans hoping for a solid campaign after he put up nine points in twelve games at the tail end of last season. In twenty-nine games with Boston in 2018-19, Donato has only five goals and eight points with a -10 rating – the worst +/- rating on the team.

Nicklas Backstrom is still over a point-per-game on the season so far, but with zero points in the last three games and a -2 rating, he needs to be better. In order for Washington to hold that top spot in the Metro, they need him to be the play-making star that the league knows him as.

Jakub Forsbacka Karlsson has been skating with Heinen and Donato on the Bruins third-line, but with the success of Kuraly-Acciari-Wagner line, that youngsters line has been demoted to the fourth line when it comes to high-pressure situations. Forsbacka Karlsson has not helped that this season. In twenty-two games, he has three goals, three assists for six points and a -2 rating.

Bruins vs Capitals Outlook

The Bruins get yet another chance at the defending Stanley Cup Champions after that blowout 7-0 loss to the Capitals on opening night back in October. Without a doubt, Boston needs to be on top of their game defensively to win this game. The Bruins have not beat Washington since March 29th, 2014 (thirteen games). Boston has struggled with the goal-scoring capabilities of Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom alike.

For Washington – put pucks on the net – simple. Jaroslav Halak will be starting in goal for Boston and he is coming off of a win over the Flames, where he allowed four goals on thirty-seven shots. A few of the goals scored against him were questionable and you have to wonder if that remains on his mind heading into tonight’s game. The Caps need to build up the offence and fire shots on Halak to score a few goals early and often. Worked back in October, may work again now.

Another interesting story-line for the game is the speciality teams. The Bruins are near the top of the league in power-play success rate (3rd best with 28.5% success) and penalty-kill (11th best with 81.1% success). Boston has been perfect while short-handed in 2019, killing off all twelve penalties in the four games.

Washington, on the other hand, is above average on the man-advantage (10th best with 21.5% success), but the penalty-kill is sub-par (23rd worst with 78% success).

Boston is only one of four teams with zero losses in the 2019 calendar year and will look to extend their winning streak to six games. Right now, their five-straight are tied for second-longest active winning streaks, tied with the Hurricanes and behind the Vegas Golden Knights (7 wins). Below are the Boston Bruins practice lines for yesterday (Jan. 9th).

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