The Boston Bruins have been red hot all season long. If it weren’t for the Montreal Canadiens playing in the same division and playing unconscious hockey all season, the Bruins would be second in the Eastern Conference as opposed to fourth. And even with how well the Canadiens have been playing the Bruins are right behind them in the division and could easily take sole possession of first if they continue to way they’ve been playing.
For the New Jersey Devils it is another story. the Devils were one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference for a good portion of this shortened season, but have fallen off since then and actually find themselves out of a playoff spot at the moment.
This game tonight is big for both teams. For the Bruins, it could mean gaining ground on the Canadiens and pushing themselves further up in the standings, and for the Devils it could mean getting back into the top eight of the Eastern Conference.
This season has been all defense for the Boston Bruins, who hold a 25-9-4 record on the season. Their lackluster offense of 2.7 goals per game (only 12th best in the league) and 14.1 percent success rate on the power play (24th best in the league) has been saved by their possession of the best goals against allowed per game in the league with 2.1, and best penalty kill percentage in the league at 90.4%. The defense of the Bruins is led by captain Zdeno Chara and is helped along by Dennis Seidenberg and rookie sensation Dougie Hamilton. Chara is one of the best, if not the best, defenseman in the league and with people like Hamilton and Seidenberg to accompany him, opponents have a very difficult time scoring. These men also are good on the offensive side of the ice, which has helped a Bruins’ offense that has lacked consistency this year.
There is hardly anything negative to say about the goaltending tandem that the Bruins have. With Tim Thomas taking a year off, many wondered if Tuukka Rask would be able to play consistently as a starter. Well he has certainly quieted those people, as he is one of the best goalies in the league this year owning a 17-6-4 record, making him one of the favorites for the Vezina Trophy. He has a 1.95 goals against average and a .928 save percentage, both of which rank among the top in the league. Combine that with his backup Anton Khudobin having a 2.07 GAA and a .929 save percentage with an 8-3-0 record, and it’s no secret why the Bruins have been so successful this year.
And now with the addition of Jaromir Jagr, the Bruins hope to finally possess the necessary offensive power to make a run at the Cup this season.
The Devils are in a bit of a rut as of late. They are currently on a seven-game losing streak, the latest being a 3-2 shootout loss in Buffalo. The Devils started to fall off as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference when goaltender Martin Brodeur was sidelined for a number of games with a back issue. The Devils used backup Johan Hedberg for a majority of the games and in Broduer’s absence they went on another seven-game losing streak. But now Broduer is back and they are still having difficulty winning games, and the reason is one of the worst offenses in the league.
The Devils only score 2.3 goals per game, which is 28th in the league and have the 22nd best power play (16.9% success rate). The Devils currently have Ilya Kovalchuk out with an injury, who is one of their best scorers this year. Additionally, players like David Clarkson and Adam Henrique who were essential to the Devils’ offense last year, have gone cold during a time when they need to produce the most. Brodeur is one of the best goaltenders of all-time, but even he cannot do it all by himself. If the Devils have any hope of making it to the playoffs and making it back to the Stanley Cup Finals, they are going to need to find some offense in a hurry.
Tonight’s game should not be too difficult to predict seeing as how both teams have been playing. However, only six days ago the Bruins played these same Devils and only defeated them 1-0 at home. So, despite the Bruins edge on offense and defense, the Devils could potentially surprise the Bruins, especially at home. It will not be an easy game by any means, but I do think that the Bruins pull out the victory and win 2-1.