GAME NIGHT: BOSTON BRUINS AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

                                                                                                                             

 

Nov. 30th, 2011

  7 p.m.

For the Pre-game report continue reading…

 Beasts of the East

Pittsburgh and Boston come into tonight as the first and second place teams in the Eastern Conference, respectively.  There’s no surprise that these are the two teams at the top of the East in early December, but how they got here was anything but predictable.  Pittsburgh started the year the same way it ended the last; wondering if and when Sidney Crosby would return.  Many wondered how the Pens would fare without their star, but they were able to hold the fort while he was gone.  After months of false starts and rumors, Crosby returned Monday the 21st of November and the Penguins, who were 11-6-3 without him, have gone 5-1-1 with him in the lineup.

Meanwhile, the Bruins were coming off their first Stanley Cup victory in 39 years.  The party went all summer and into the fall.  By the end of October, the Bruins sat at 3-7 and near the bottom of the Conference. This kicked the door wide open for doubters and naysayers who claimed the Bruins victory last spring was a bit of a fluke.  Then the calendar turned to November and the Bruins woke up.  It may just have been the home-and-home losses to the hated Canadiens to close out October.  The Bruins knew they were a better team than the Habs, but they just weren’t focused on the task at hand.  Once whatever it was that woke them up kicked in, the Bruins have been the best team in the NHL for the last 5 weeks going an amazing 13-0-1 during that stretch.

 

Tonight’s Line-up

  Lucic                                            Krejci                                      Horton

  Marchand                                Bergeron                                     Seguin

     Pouliot                                         Kelly                                          Peverley

       Paille                                       Campbell                                       Thornton

The Five Hole

5. Crosby vs. Bruins- 6g 22a 28pts +9 read Crosby’s career stats in 22 games vs. Boston.  The Bruins defense and Tim Thomas will have to find a way to shut him down. Expect Crosby to see a lot Chara tonight.

4. Matt Cooke –  We all know he wanted to change his image, and to his credit we haven’t really heard his name all that much.  But with only 10 penalty minutes through 27 games, it looks like his making a run at the Lady Byng!

3.  Numbers Game – 3 is the number of points the Penguins are ahead of the Bruins by.  It’s also the number of games in hand that the Bruins have, so a win against Pittsburgh tonight would put them in the driver seat at this point in the season.

2. Goaltenders Do Battle – Tim Thomas has been about as good as he can be this year and is arguable the best goalie in the NHL.  He’s started 16 games and has a 12-4 record with a tight 1.93 GAA.  Marc-Andre Fleury has started 20 games and is 14-4-2 with a 2.11 GAA.  At this point Thomas has put himself in the top class of goalies in the league and Fleury stands just outside of that.  His numbers are good, but not great.

1. Goal Differential – Both teams are playing well offensively, as both have 85 goals on the year.  But in goal differential the Bruins almost double the Penguins at +34 compared to the Pens +19.  Clearly the difference is in net, which speaks to #2 above.

Prediction

The Penguins are 8-1-2 at home on the season while the Bruins are 6-2 on the road.  If both teams play at their best it’s about a dead even match.  Although the Pens have been playing much better since Crosby’s return, the Bruins are simply playing a better all-around game.  As long as the Bruins bring their nasty tonight and don’t get fooled into thinking they have to out-finesse the Penguins, they should win this game.  It won’t be a blowout; I’m predicting a 4-2 win for Boston.

images courtesy of wikipedia.org
stats courtesy of NHL.com