The Boston Bruins (13-5-3, 29 pts) host the New Jersey Devils (7-11-2, 16 pts) in the final game of a three-game homestand at TD Garden today (5 PM ET, NESN, MSG Network, NBCSN).
The Bruins responded in a big way to the Washington Capitals knocking Brandon Carlo out of Friday’s game with a dirty Tom Wilson hit and poured on the offense in a 5-1 win. The Bruins are one point behind the Capitals and three points behind the first place New York Islanders with multiple games in hand against both teams, so the Black and Gold remain in a pretty good spot.
For the Bruins, they’ll need guard against a letdown after an emotionally charged game against a Devils team that’s giving them some trouble this season.
The Devils are 2-8-0 in their last 10 games, but one of those wins was a victory over the Bruins back in mid-February where Kyle Palmieri scored a couple of goals in a 3-2 win. The Bruins have lost two of the three games to New Jersey this season, and Bruce Cassidy sees it as a speed problem while also putting his guard up against an emotional letdown after Friday night’s high-emotion tilt vs. the Caps.
“Especially a 5 pm game, you don’t get a morning skate or into a normal routine. You’re a little bit out-of-structure so to speak, and I don’t know what kind of team we’re going to see because they’ve lost a few in a row at home,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Sometimes it’s good for a team like that to get out on the road for just a change of scenery. With Washington there’s probably more intensity than you’re going to see against New Jersey, so you do have to guard against that. We’ll address it, but these guys are good pros so hopefully they reset in a hurry.
“What gave us trouble was their team speed. They really flooded us down below the goal line in both zones and it created some problems for us. We had trouble getting out of our end, and in the offensive zone we were a little stubborn because we didn’t want to move it out of those dead areas and go low-to-high or get it into the slot quickly.”
Clearly the Boston Bruins coaching staff will be guarding against a letdown, but as always, it’s up to the players to keep the energy, pace and intensity up in a hockey game that promises to be very different this afternoon.
–Tuukka Rask (8-3-2-, 2.56, .902 save percentage) will be back between the pipes for the Boston Bruins after backing Jaroslav Halak on Friday night. Rask stopped 27-of-28 shots on a shootout loss to the Capitals on Wednesday night, but was strong between the pipes in a game where the B’s didn’t generate a lot of offensive pressure.
– Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo (concussion) has been released from the hospital and is feeling better, but Bruce Cassidy said he’s “obviously going to be out for a while.”
-Defenseman Kevan Miller (knee) is expected back at practice next week while defenseman Jeremy Lauzon (broken hand) is out for at least another three weeks. Forward Ondrej Kase (upper body) is on injured reserve.
-The injuries on the back end are going to force the Bruins to experiment with both Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril on the right side with Matt Grzelcyk in Brandon Carlo’s place. It’s not ideal for the left-shot, young defensemen, but the Bruins need to do something while missing Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon from the penalty kill and their yeoman work in the defensive zone.
“We’re definitely missing some stiffness or some girth in the defensive zone, or whatever you want to call it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “They just have to play their game. Urho is a good defender. We want him to be a good first pass/first touch/first outlet guy where he’s very clean. That’s how he is going to survive in the NHL.
“I think Zboril has been very good at that. His first pass has been on the tape and good. For Jakub, it was more ‘Can you defend good players every night and be hard to play against?’ and he’s been very good for the most part. So, there’s a little bit of that. Vaak has been shading to more of a penalty kill guy and Zboril is the opposite of that. So just play to your strengths and pitch in where you’re needed. Don’t try to play like Kevan Miller or Brandon Carlo, who are shot suppressors. Go make plays with your feet and with your stick because that’s more your game. We’ll try to tailor it a little more to the players that are involved.”
– The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the powerplay on Friday night and are now 15-for-60 on the man advantage this season. They’re 11th in the NHL with a 25.0 percent success rate but are slowly falling down the list with a PP that’s expected to be one of the NHL’s best.
-The Boston Bruins penalty killed off all three Capitals powerplays on Friday night and kept the Washington PP off the board in the two-game series. The Bruins have now killed off 63 of 71 powerplay attempts against them. Their 88.7 percent success rate currently leads the NHL despite all of the injuries to the back end, and the defection of Zdeno Chara to Washington, this season.
-The Devils have only scored five goals in the three games during the month of March thus far, and big guns like Jack Hughes, Pavel Zacha, Travis Zajac and Miles Wood have been held to just a single point this month. Yegor Sherengovich, Jesper Bratt and Nathan Bastian share the team lead with two points in three games played for the Devils during the month of March. Sharangovich is the only Devils player in double digits for shots on net in those three games as things appear to have really slowed down for New Jersey as of late.
–New Jersey suffered a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday and it sure sounds like they will be highly motivated after using words like “embarrassing” to describe their play in their fifth loss in a row while giving up 12 goals in their last two games.
“Today was all video, all review, and real hard honesty about how we played,” said Lindy Ruff on Sunday morning ahead of the game vs. the Boston Bruins, per Amanda Stein.
-Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (5-6-1, 2.97 goals against average, .904 save percentage) has dropped four games in a row and given up three goals or more in seven straight starts for New Jersey after a strong opening to the season.
-The Devils rank 28th in the NHL on the power play while scoring just 13.6 percent of the time on the man advantage.
-The Devils rank dead last in the NHL in penalty kill while stopping just 63.9 percent of the power plays they’ve faced this season.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Jake DeBrusk
Trent Frederic – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Anders Bjork – Jack Studnicka – Chris Wagner
Jakub Zboril – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Urho Vaakanainen
Jarred Tinordi – Connor Clifton
New Jersey Devils Lines