Bruins Game 21 Preview: New Jersey Devils

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PHOTO CREDITS: (nhl.com)

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

It was a rough week for the Boston Bruins last week, but their back-to-back set of games on Friday and Saturday made up for it somewhat. The Bruins ended their four-game losing streak Friday with a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and then went on to earn a point after having the game tied with less than a minute to go in regulation, followed by a shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. Through the first 20 games, the Bruins are third in the NHL with a record of 12-3-5.

New Jersey added some bigger names to their franchise over the offseason, but unfortunately for them, it has not payed off as we enter the second quarter of the 2019-20 season. The Devils sit as the 13th-best team in the Eastern Conference with a combined record of 7-8-4 through the first 19 games. New Jersey has the second-worst goal differential in the conference, (-19), but is in the midst of a two-game winning streak.

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Tuukka Rask 8-2-2 2.14 GAA .927 SV% Last Game: 29 Saves in 4-2 win vs TOR

NJD: Mackenzie Blackwood 7-4-3 2.79 GAA .904 SV% Last Game: 31 Saves in 4-3 OT win vs MTL

Who’s Hot:

Charlie McAvoy has not been great offensively for the Boston Bruins so far this season, especially considering he just extended his contract with the organization this past summer. However, in the back-to-back, McAvoy’s game was the best it has been all season with the culmination being against the Capitals on Saturday. The 21-year-old defenceman put up two assists in 23:23 of ice-time, but was easily the best blueliner on the defensive side of the ice for the Bruins and did a great job in all facets.

Blake Coleman possesses some of the most underrated speed in the NHL for a depth player and seemingly at any time he can put on the jets towards the net and has a couple slick one-handed goals because of it. Coleman only has 4-3-7 numbers in 19 games played for New Jersey this year, but he has points in each of his last three games, scoring 1-2-3 totals in that time span. For a struggling Devils team, this is a bright spot.

Tuukka Rask will get the start tonight in New Jersey for the Bruins and after two regulation losses back-to-back, he rebounded great with a 29-save performance in Friday’s victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Rask still has an impressive 2019-2020 stat line with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage in 12 games. Rask will look to win his second-consecutive start tonight.

Who’s Not:

Being drafted first-overall in any draft usually means that the expectations for your rookie season is higher than anyone else and for forward Jack Hughes, those expectations were through the roof at the start of the regular season, but the 18-year-old Orlando, Florida native has only 4-6-10 points in 19 games and has only one point in his last five games. Hughes has seen his ice-time decrease over these last five games and it will be interesting to see how it plays out against the Bruins.

There are not any Bruins who are “cold” at the moment, even though they recently had a four-game losing skid. Boston has looked pretty good on all four offensive lines and all three defensive pairings, but the biggest issue for them is playing a full 60-minute hockey game. Failing to play all three periods with equal intensity has cost them points and games over the past couple weeks and it is fair to assume that the coaching staff is working to end that.

Milestone Watch:

Boston Bruins:

  • F Charlie Coyle is three goals away (97) from 100 career NHL goals
  • F Brad Marchand is two goals away (275) from tying Wayne Cashman (277) for 8th-most goals in Bruins history
  • F Patrice Bergeron* is one even-strength goal away (214) from passing Cam Neely (214) for sole possession of 6th-most even-strength goals in Bruins history
  • F Patrice Bergeron* is one power-play goal away (99) from 100 career power-play goals

*As of 11:35am EST, Bergeron remains a game-time decision to play against NJD.

New Jersey Devils:

  • F Blake Coleman is playing in his 200th career NHL regular-season game

Bruins vs Devils Outlook:

The 2019-2020 NHL regular-season officially reached the quarter mark and already, the points are starting to matter. Each and every missed chance for two points can comeback to haunt a team in March and April so these games have a level of importance to them. Boston has already matched up with New Jersey this season, defeating them 3-0 in Boston’s home-opener back on October 12th.

As previously mentioned, the Bruins are near the top of the standings in both the Eastern Conference and the entire league. However, with the recent rise of the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers, the Bruins do not have a massive lead for first place in the Atlantic Division. With games against the Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and New York Rangers to close out the month of November, wins over teams like the Devils will become huge when the schedule becomes more difficult.

Without Torey Krug in the lineup, the Bruins power-play has struggled just a little bit, but still holds the third-best percentage in the league at an impressive 28.1%. Boston’s penalty-kill remains in the top-half of the NHL, killing off 83.3% of their penalties for 12th in the league. New Jersey is on the complete opposite of the spectrum. The Devils have the 5th-worst power-play success rate at 14.3% and 9th-worst penalty-kill at 75.8%.

Bruins Morning Rushes:

Yesterday, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy said that forwards Patrice Bergeron (lower-body), Jake DeBrusk (lower-body) and Brett Ritchie (upper-body) were considered “game-time decisions” and as of 12:00pm EST, no further word has been made on their status for the game against the New Jersey Devils. If all three do return, the Bruins will likely roll the lines listed above.

Puck drop from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey is scheduled for 7:00pm EST.

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: New Jersey at Boston: 12/27/18

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PHOTO CREDITS: (CBS New York)

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

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (20-13-4)

Away: New Jersey Devils (12-16-7)

The Christmas Break is over for the National Hockey League and the Bruins and Devils will battle it out as 2019 appears right around the corner. The Bruins entered the three-day break with a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Hartford Whalers night, but before then, rocked a three-game winning streak.

New Jersey, on the other hand, has struggled this season. Before the break, they lost 3-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets and have lost four of their last five contests dating back to December 15th.

Bruins Morning Rushes

First Period:

Coming off the Christmas break against a sub-par team, the Bruins may have expected a better start to this hockey team, in addition to the return of DeBrusk, Chara, and Miller, the Bruins should have come out with an aggressive attitude and try to score early. With that said, the Bruins allowed an early goal against by Damon Severson.

Following a defensive zone faceoff win, the Devils exploded up the ice and used brilliant puck rotation to find an open Severson who fired a clean wrist shot past Halak only twenty-five seconds into this Thursday night game, 1-0 Devils.

4:15 into the frame, Stefan Noesen was sent to the penalty box for hooking Kevan Miller, giving Boston an early power-play. Boston seemed to be getting their feet underneath them after some poor play before the penalty. The Bruins moved the puck around well on the man-advantage, with the best chance coming from Jake DeBrusk who tried to shoot it close short-side, only to deflect off of MacKenzie Blackwood’s shoulder.

Even with the good power-play, the Bruins still struggled 5-on-5. Twelve minutes in, the B’s only had two shots while at even strength, something that cannot be true in any game, let alone one with only an injury to Charlie McAvoy.

As New Jersey attempted to enter the zone with aggression once again, John Moore gets his stick tangled in with Kyle Palmieri, sending Moore to the box for tripping. On the Devils power-play, just over thirty seconds in, Will Butcher feeds it to Palmieri, who rockets a slap shot towards the cage that takes a high bounce off of Halak, then bounces in right behind the goaltender, 2-0 Devils.

Boston manages to survive the remainder of the period and enter the intermission down by two goals. During the later stages of the period, the Bruins did have some good hockey in them, mainly led by none other than Patrice Bergeron who had some good slot shots that Blackwood stopped.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 10 NJD: 12

Score: 2-0 Devils

Second Period:

Looking for a better frame than the first, the Bruins took an early penalty, as Colby Cave went to the sinbin for a tripping infraction on Andy Greene only 3 minutes and ten seconds into the second period. Boston looked good on this penalty-kill, with the help of Jake DeBrusk, who makes his return tonight after missing a few games with a concussion. Bruins successfully kill off the penalty on Cave and game returns to 5-on-5.

The Bruins momentum continued to increase upwards with that top line that has dominated the NHL over the 2018 calendar year. David Pastrnak took a hard spin while shooting, only to ring the rubber puck off of the post. Arguably the best chance of the hockey game for the Bruins, but no such luck when it comes to scoring their first of the night.

As the seconds became minutes, the Bruins continue to pressure the Devils with numerous offensive opportunities while staying solid on the defensive end as well. Both Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller have looked comfortable in their return games after injuries. At one point, Miller erupted the TD Garden crowd with a massive hit on Jesper Bratt.

Just over five minutes remaining on the scoreboard, Chris Wagner buried a cross-crease pass from John Moore to put a cap on a strong shift by Boston’s fourth line. Moore made a smart decision to pinch, beating out a couple Devils players, then proceeds to have the vision to see Wagner who found the back door entrance towards the net. 2-1 hockey game now in Boston.

Again, Boston’s pressure was consistent in the period and seemed to even increase more after the Wagner tally. With 11.8 seconds to go, David Krejci gets tripped up by Andy Greene, sending Boston to a power-play. With no goals in the limited time, the Bruins will start the third period with 1:49 of power-play time.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 29 NJD: 21

Score: 2-1 Devils

Third Period:

It is usually a difficult task to start a period with a man-advantage as the team sometimes needs a few minutes to “warm-up” after the intermission between periods. Such belief is true as the Bruins could not capitalize on Greene’s late second-period penalty and the Bruins go to 0-for-3 on the 5-on-4 power-play tonight.

New Jersey shut down the Bruins momentum with a goal 4:15 into the third by Blake Coleman. The speedy forward sped past Brandon Carlo and made a quick forehand-backhand deke to bury it past Jaroslav Halak on the breakaway, making this a 3-1 game. Credit has to be given to Coleman who managed to hold off the big Carlo and make a move to the net to score his tenth goal of the 2018-19 season.

The Devils without Taylor Hall continued after the goal to put more pressure on the Bruins. Forward Miles Wood with a fire lit underneath him races towards Halak but is tripped up by Miller. The puck was across the red line, but the referees had a brief conversation on the timing of the “goal”, only to determine that it crossed the line after the whistle and there was no official goal on the play. Bruins, however, are called on the tripping minor and Miller serves the two minutes.

Not long after the successful kill, the Bruins tried to build some offensive chances, led by defenceman Matt Grzelcyk who made some solid passes and advances on Blackwood but the rookie goaltender held his ground on every one of them to keep this a two-goal Devils lead. The young Massachusetts blueliner has looked good for Boston tonight.

Around the seven-minute mark, Stefan Noesen nails Donato in the Devils zone up high while battling along the boards, only for New Jersey to make some good breakout passes – leading to Nico Hischier’s breakaway goal. The tally makes this game 4-1 and gives the 2017 1st Overall Draft Pick his tenth goal of the year.

With Jaroslav Halak on the bench, David Krejci tosses the puck high and deep into the Devils end where Sami Vatanen rifles a shot around the boards that is stopped by DeBrusk. Jake sends the puck towards the net and Patrice Bergeron deflects his twelfth goal of the year and it is 4-2 with 2:55 to go.

Less than sixty seconds later, David Backes finds Brad Marchand with speed into the zone, but Marchand’s in-tight shot is stopped by Blackwood’s pads. As the rebound escaped into the slot, David Backes lays an illegal hit to the head of Blake Coleman. Backes’ shoulder makes clear contact with the head and I would imagine that NHL Player Safety is taking a look at this play. Backes goes to the box with exactly two minutes to go.

Having Halak pulled from the cage, the game was 5-on-5 and Boston had some decent chances from Marchand and company. However, Torey Krug is unable to keep the puck onside and the whistle is blown. On the offensive zone faceoff, the Bruins lose it, leading to Blake Coleman burying the empty-net goal to seal the deal and make it 5-2 New Jersey.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 42 NJD: 33

Final Score: 5-2 Devils

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: NJD G Mackenzie Blackwood – 40 Saves, .952 SV%

2nd Star: NJD F Blake Coleman – 2 Goals, Game-Winning Goal, 4 Shots, +1 Rating

3rd Star: NJD D Andy Greene – 2 Assists, +3 Rating, 21:48 TOI

The Boston Bruins are now 20-14-4 on the season and have lost their last two games against two of the worst teams in the NHL Eastern Conference. Up next, the Bruins take on the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, December 29th in the final game of 2018. The Sabres last beat the Bruins 4-2 on Sunday, December 16th, 2018. Scheduled puck drop for Saturday’s game is 7:00pm EST in Buffalo, New York.

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