The Boston Bruins (4-1-0) return to TD Garden this afternoon for a matinee. It’s their first afternoon game of the season and the first of two meetings with the Anaheim Ducks (4-1-0) on the year. The Ducks are one of the biggest surprises in the NHL, starting 4-1-0 under Dallas Eakins and looking very much like a team that will be a lot to handle. These aren’t your father’s Ducks either. This team has more speed and skill than usual.
Bruins Ready For “Opportunistic” Ducks
Dallas Eakins is running a tight ship in Anaheim right now. The Ducks have allowed just six goals after five games, the second-fewest in the entire NHL. Their lock-down defense has led the way, while an opportunistic offense has made a huge difference in the early portion of the schedule.
“I watched them against Columbus the other night, they found a way to win. They stay in games, they’re opportunistic,” Bruce Cassidy told reporters Sunday. “I guess on the surface they’re like us, but I don’t know them well enough to sit there and say they’re the Boston Bruins of the west or not yet.”
Boston Bruins of the west? There are more similarities between the teams than one might realize. This current Ducks group has a lot of the same characteristics as the 2016-17 Bruins. “They’ve got some new energy, a new coach who probably changed a little bit of the dynamic there. They have some younger guys that he’s worked with. There’s some familiarity so that probably makes it a little easier when you have that much turnover.”
Jake DeBrusk knows the Bruins will have their hands full against a stingy team. “Definitely a defensive team. They’re always hard to play against. They have big defensemen and big forwards as well, they play a physical game. It’s one of those things where it’s an afternoon game as well, they haven’t played in a couple of days, so they’ll be ready to go.”
Bruins Want To Avoid Matinee Lull
Even being the home team – and not the Pacific time zone Ducks – the Bruins know that there is a strong chance of a slow start when playing in a 1 PM matinee. Considering the Bruins are also still getting reacclimated to the Eastern time zone after the season-opening roadie out west, they will look to be sharp in the early going Monday.
“Yeah, it’s a different routine for us,” defenseman Brandon Carlo told the media Monday morning. “The 1 o’clock start can be hard for us at times to get the proper amount of sleep and you have the napping situation in your head, but overall nothing too big. We just go to bed a little earlier and get up ready for the day, but a little bit different with the eating schedule as well, but you just gotta figure that out.”
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Karson Kuhlman
Danton Heinen – Charlie Coyle – Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton
Halak (1-1-0) returns to the net for the Bruins today. Bruce Cassidy has alternated his goaltenders in each of the season’s first six games, allowing both to stay healthy and fresh. Halak shutout the Arizona Coyotes in his first start of the season, then suffered a tough loss to the Avalanche last Thursday.
Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Wagner will remain together this afternoon. The trio played their best game of the young season on Saturday, with Nordstrom scoring his first goal of the year.
“We know we have each other,” said Nordstrom. “I think we’re finding each other, too, and I think offensively today was better than Game 1, so we’re going to build on that. I think the way we supported each other off the puck too has been really well.”
Gibson, Kase Leads Ducks
The Ducks are backstopped by John Gibson, arguably the most underrated player in the entire NHL. Gibson posted a .917 save percentage in 58 games a season ago behind a putrid Ducks team. Early in this campaign, Gibson is 3-1-0 with a .961 save percentage. He’s once again playing at an elite level.
Ondrej Kase, meanwhile, has emerged as the Ducks offensive leader. He’s got four points (1 g, 3 a) in five games and leads the team in scoring. Kase, 23, provides the Ducks with a mix of speed and skill. He’s not the only one. Under Dallas Eakins, the Ducks have brought a number of players up from the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.
Among those elevated are top prospects Max Jones, Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Comtois. Those four forwards are just the tip of the iceberg for a Ducks team that has drafted and developed their next wave of forwards. Unlike the previous group, which was built on a power game, this next generation is built on speed and skill.
Anaheim Ducks Lines
Maxime Comtois – Ryan Getzlaf – Ondrej Kase
Rickard Rakell – Adam Henrique – Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie – Devin Shore – Troy Terry
Nicolas Deslauriers – Derek Grant – Carter Rowney
Hampus Lindholm – Josh Manson
Michael Del Zotto – Cam Fowler
Jacob Larsson – Korbinian Holzer
The strength of the Ducks very well could be their defensemen. Lindholm, Manson and Fowler form arguably the best trio in the Pacific division. This is a group of defensemen that are quick and that can move the puck. They’ll present some issues for the Bruins today.
Getzlaf and Henrique are two familiar names up front. Other than that? This is a relatively unknown group of forwards. Rakell is a name that gets lost because he plays in Anaheim, but he’s a terrific goal scorer. Comtois, Terry and Kase are among the young players the Ducks are working into the lineup.