RECORDS: Hawks 10-12-5 Bruins 20-3-5
PUCK DROP: 6pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
FRUSTRATED WOMEN: Stanley Cup Of Chowder
So you’ve just been fustigated by the West’s leader at home. What’s the best follow-up to that? Why, one of the East’s best on the road of course! Where they haven’t actually lost a game all year! Where they’ve collected 28 of 32 points! Sounds fun, no? Who’s excited?
Whether the Hawks like it or not, that’s the task they face. And they’ve brought their moms along with them to…Boston and Newark? What the fuck did their moms ever do to them? Don’t they go to Arizona and Vegas next week? That seems an oversight. Or were they afraid they wouldn’t be able to pry too many moms away from the craps table to go watch their sons trail in the Knights’ wake? We’ll discuss this another time. THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.
Anyway, the Hawks wash up on Causeway St. to find everything pretty much humming for the Bruins, even with Patrice Bergeron missing the past few games. They have the league’s fourth and fifth-leading scorer in Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and the Hawks didn’t seem to be able to do much about the third-leading scorer in Nathan MacKinnon last weekend. The Bs have two goalies in the Vezina discussion, as both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask have save-percentages north of .930. So if you’ve got one line that no one can stop, and a goalie every night no team can get past, what the fuck else do you need? The answer is not much, because the Bruins don’t have much beyond that and yet they’re 14 points up on what was thought to be the league’s toughest division. Some guys have all the luck.
Is there some air in the Bruins start so far? Maybe a little. They’re pretty middle of the pack in most metrics, and they certainly don’t create a host of chances and shots for themselves. They just have two guys burying them at ridiculous rates. They’re top-10 when it comes to allowing expected goals or scoring chances, which looks a lot better when Halak and Rask have combined for a .936 at evens. As you might expect, giving the Perfection Line a look with an extra man has led to pretty much instant death for any opponent, as the power play is clicking at 30.9%. That’s enough to get it done most nights right there.
And with this cushion in the Atlantic, the Bs don’t really have to fear a flattening out or market correction. 14 points even at this stage is a gargantuan lead, and unless both Halak’s and Rask’s head fall off and roll into the Charles, they’re not losing that. So they can look forward to at least the first two rounds with home ice. Their season is almost accomplished and we’re weeks away from Christmas.
In the big picture, you have to feel like the Bs need to find secondary scoring somewhere. Only Krejci below the top line has more than 20 points, and some of that is boosted by getting to play with Pastrnak in Bergeron’s absence. Then again, this was enough to push to the absolute limit last year, and it may just be no one ever figures out how to stop that line until Marchand decides to do it himself (which he always does). I wouldn’t trust any team that has Danton Heinen or Jake DeBrusk on the second line either, but they have 45 points and all I have is shit in my pants. So there.
The underlying cause to the Bruins is that they have three d-men who can really move the play in Charlie McAvoy (the mouth-breathing loser TM Fifth Feather), Torey Krug, and Matt Grzelcyk. The latter’s absence is last year’s Final was massive, and it deprived the Black and Gold from having a puck-mover on the ice at all times. Krug still has no idea what he’s doing defensively, but as he gets to play with Brandon Carlo most of the messes get cleaned up. The Bruins can play at pace.
Which is a problem for the Hawks, who can’t. Duncan Keith will miss both of these games, which means the Hawks are going to try and combat this unholy beast with five slow d-men and the moderate mobility of Connor Murphy. My eyes are bleeding too. Anyway, Dylan Strome sounds like he might make the bell, but Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula won’t.
I can’t sugarcoat this one for you. It has every chance of being ugly. The Hawks can try and leak out and maybe cherrypick their way to some odd-mans, but that will only leave them more exposed in their own zone. The Bruins aren’t a great possession team, but they have more than enough forwards who can hold the puck long enough and carry it low-to-high or the other way which always sends the Hawks into hysterics defensively. And even if you get out against the Bruins, you have one of two goalies who have been a wall to get past.
Stranger things have happened? That’s going to replace “One Goal” as the motto soon.