By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter! @zcarlone21
The Bruins begin a six-game road trip out West following arguably their best victory of the season over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday afternoon. The Bruins beat the Avalanche at TD Garden by a score of 5-1 without forward Brad Marchand in the lineup. The Avalanche are one of the best teams in the league.
The win, capped by two goals from David Pastrnak and a 28-save performance from Jeremy Swayman, was very impressive considering how inconsistent the Bruins have performed as of late. The road doesn’t get any easier, however, as the Bruins play three of the top-five teams in the Pacific Division in the next seven games. It all starts against the Seattle Kraken, one of the teams in the division who are struggling. The puck drop for the Bruins first-ever game in Seattle is scheduled for 10 p.m. EST.
After Marchand served the final game in his six-game suspension, he earned in a heated tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 8th; he will be reunited with captain Patrice Bergeron and the rest of the team. His suspension was lengthy, but given his history of suspensions in the league, along with the actual altercation that took place at the tail end of that game, what’s done is now done.
The Bruins went a respectable 3-2-1 without Marchand. Wingers Taylor Hall and Trent Frederic stepped up tremendously in his absence, and it’s time for the Bruins to get their best player back in the lineup.
On another note, the site Sports Betting Dime has Marchand as +5000 to win the Hart Trophy award this season. With his return, there is hope for the odds to improve.
Despite missing 11 games so far this season, Marchand is tied for the team lead in points with David Pastrnak with 49. His 21 goals rank second on the team behind ‘Pasta,’ and his 28 assists rank first. Had he not missed so many games already this season, Marchand would undoubtedly have an eye for positioning as one of the league’s top point-getters.
49 points in 39 games is still on beat for Marchand considering his trend of being a point-per-game player since the 2016-17 season isn’t slowing down just yet at age 33. His return will be a big boost for the Bruins offense, which exploded for five goals against the Avalanche on Monday. Marchand’s return also comes against a vulnerable Kraken defense that has surrendered 3.54 goals per game.
Lineup juggling and inconsistency hit the Bruins hard in the first months of the season, but many of the forwards are finally starting to hit their stride. Among them is center Charlie Coyle, who has racked up four points in his last five games. He also scored one of the team’s five goals in Monday’s victory. In Marchand’s absence, along with the short absence of Bergeron, Coyle has gotten a lot of time with new wingers.
Trent Frederic and Craig Smith played with Coyle for the majority of the even-strength play, and they seemed to have chemistry nobody was expecting to see. Frederic has forechecked hard and generated a handful of chances for the two other right-handed forwards on the line, and Smith has seen his fair share of quality opportunities as well.
Reilly, McAvoy Stand-Out on ‘D’
Bruins defensemen Mike Reilly, Charlie McAvoy, and the rest of the defensive squad will get a relatively easy matchup when matched up against the Kraken forwards. Reilly and McAvoy, specifically, have been the team’s two best defenders in my eyes as of late, and it’s showing to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Cassidy paired the two together for the majority of the team’s last two games, and it’s worked out well. Reilly has three points in his previous three games, while McAvoy is coming off a two-assist game last time out. Points aren’t everything, especially for defensemen, but as the saying goes, good offense generates from good defense.
Other guys like Urho Vaakanainen, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk have played well in the team’s last couple of games as well. The team is definitely riding high after their victory against the Avalanche, but they need to snap back to reality for their first game on a long road trip. Statistics don’t tell the whole story. The last time these two met, for the first time ever, resulted in a slim 3-2 victory for the black and gold on February 1st. The Bruins defense needs to lock it down against one of the league’s worst offenses to keep the team’s confidence high.