By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
After a very successful homestand that saw them winning four straight games, the Boston Bruins are back on the road for the next four games – starting tonight against the number one team in the MassMutual East Division, the Washington Capitals. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm EST.
‘Pasta’ on the Menu Tonight
David Pastrnak, who has been out of the lineup for the first seven games of the year due to offseason hip surgery, will make his long-awaited return to action tonight according to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy.
Earlier in the week, Pastrnak was making great strides to a return. He started in some practices in a non-contact jersey and then not long after, a full-contact sweater. Now as the Bruins head on the road for the second time this season, Pastrnak will be apart of the roster this time around.
Pastrnak, 24, scored 48 goals in the 2019-20 campaign, tying him with Capitals’ forward Alex Ovechkin for most in the league and securing him his first career Maurice Richard Trophy as a result. Of course, there will be a significant amount of pressure on Pastrnak immediately to score goals, but if he can produce at a high rate sooner rather than later, it will only be better in the long run. Expect Pastrnak to play alongside his familiar linemates of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
Former Captain Becomes Foe
Without question, one of the biggest news headlines of the offseason was that longtime Bruins captain Zdeno Chara announced his departure from Boston to sign a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals. Now that Boston and Washington are in the same division, the anticipation to see Chara face off against the team he won the Stanley Cup with was sky-high.
Chara, 43, is coming off an impressive game against the New York Islanders where he tallied his first goal of the new season, unleashing a bomb from the point that was followed by a full-team celebration at the Capitals bench. So far this year, Chara has 1-2-3 totals in eight games, averaging 20:29 of time on-ice.
Battle Between Two of the Best
We are still less than ten games into the 2021 NHL season for these two clubs, but it is clear that both Washington and Boston are two of the top teams in not only the MassMutual East Division, but the entire league. In eight games, the Capitals sit atop the division with a 5-0-3 record, outscoring their opponents 31-26 in that time.
Boston, winners of their last four games, are two points behind the Caps with a 5-1-1 record. The Bruins finally found goal scoring in two meetings respectively against the two Pennsylvania teams, outscoring the Flyers and Penguins a combined 18-8.
The war of specialty teams will be a heated one as well. On the power-play, the Capitals are third (41.2%) while Boston is fourth (36.4%). On the penalty-kill, Bruins are first in the NHL (93.1%) up against Washington’s 75.9% success rate (20th). Goals will not be easy to come by whatsoever.
Bruins Projected Lineup
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
Ritchie – Krejci – Kuhlman
Frederic – Coyle – Smith
Bjork – Kuraly – Wagner
Lauzon – McAvoy
Clifton – Carlo
Zboril – Miller
Aside from Pastrnak’s return, forward Karson Kuhlman will also be making his season debut. Jack Studnicka was “banged up” in the last game against Pittsburgh so he will be absent tonight, allowing Kuhlman to step in and take his spot. Jake DeBrusk (lower-body), Matt Grzelcyk (lower-body), and Ondrej Kase (upper-body) remain out as well.
Head Coach Bruce Cassidy did bring up how the fourth line of Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner, and Sean Kuraly (combined two goals on Thursday) played a solid previous game and would like to keep them together as with the third line of Frederic-Coyle-Smith. However, there are likely to be changes as the game goes on.