Hub of Hockey Weekly: Boston Bruins Pack Their Sunglasses
The Boston Bruins tied an NHL record on Saturday night when they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1 to win their 11th straight home victory to start the regular season. Their latest triumph extended their record to 16-2 (32 points), keeping them at the top of the league standings, two points ahead of the upstart New Jersey Devils and three points ahead of their Western Conference rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Last week, the B’s had no games until Thursday, when they continued their homestand at TD Garden by dismantling Carter Hart and the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1. However, captain Patrice Bergeron didn’t collect any points that night. Against the Blackhawks, he scored a goal and set up another on Saturday to reach 999 points. This Monday, the guys will be looking to set up their leader so he can achieve a scoring milestone only three other players, Ray Bourque, John Bucyk, and Phil Esposito, have achieved with the club.
This week, the Bruins head down to Florida for two games before Thanksgiving break and a Black Friday matinee at the Garden against a very familiar foe.
Monday, Nov. 21 @ 7:00 PM vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (Amelie Arena)
Old acquaintances meet (again) at Amelie Arena in Tampa Bay on Monday Night when the Bruins head to town as the league’s best team. Currently, the three-time reigning Eastern Conference champions are in an unfamiliar spot, sitting in third place in the Atlantic Divison with 23 points. They are looking up at the Toronto Maple Leafs (24 points) and Bruins, who hold a comfortable nine-point lead over their southern rivals.
The Lightning has turned things around recently, improving to 11-6-1 after opening the campaign 3-4. Moreover, they are now winners in fourth straight games and eight of their last 11. Last year, despite having a better record and going deeper in the playoffs (losing in the Stanley Cup Final), the Lightning struggled against the Bruins, winning only one of their three meetings, and getting outscored 12-8. The 2021-22 meetings were a complete role reversal from 2019-20, when Tampa Bay took three out of four games, earning an edge in the goal column 13-10.
Historically, the Lightning has never been a problem for the Bruins, who own a comfortable 68-30-9-3 lead through 110 games. Statistically, the B’s lead 360-286 in goals scored, which equals about 3.27 goals per game and 2.60 goals against average. Considering how high-octane these two offenses are, one or both of these numbers will be different after Monday’s matchup.
The Lightning has scored the 11th most goals in the league, with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos each with ten. There isn’t a single player to watch for in this game since almost everyone who hops over the boards is a lethal threat. Outside of Kucherov and Stamkos, Brayden Point and Mikhail Sergachev are magicians with the puck, already accumulating double-digit assists on the campaign. Furthermore, if you were concerned about the offense, we can’t forget that Andrei Vasilevskiy stands between the pipes and is considered the best goalie in hockey today.
Bergeron is the only player worth watching this game or any game this week. Everyone loves to watch David Pastrnak score one-timers, David Krejci make ridiculous passes, and Brad Marchand score shorthanded goals, but the mission for most of the team this week will be to get #37 the puck so he can reach one thousand points. In 59 games against Tampa Bay, he has 17 goals and 33 assists for 50 points.
Wednesday, Nov. 23 @ 7:00 PM vs. Florida Panthers (FLA Live Arena)
After visiting the western part of Florida on Monday, the B’s will make the short trip to the southern tip of the state and face off against last season’s President Trophy winner, the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers retooled their roster by trading away franchise cornerstone Jonathan Huberdeau to the Calgary Flames, acquiring gritty forward Matthew Thachuk in return. So far, the deal has seen mixed results, with the Flames struggling in the west and the Panthers sitting with a 9-8-2 record after the season’s first month.
Since the 2018-19 season, the Bruins have won two out of three regular-season games against the Panthers, improving to 6-3 in their last nine meetings. Of course, due to divisional play in 2020-21, these two clubs did not face each other, so there’s no way to tell how games that season would have played out. However, the last time the Panthers claimed a season series with the Bruins was in 2017-18, thanks to 3-2 and 3-0 wins.
In the record books, Boston maintains a 59-36-6-6 record against Florida, who will meet for the 108th time on Wednesday night. Like last season, when the teams each potted eight goals against one another, the overall numbers are relatively close, with the Bruins scoring 2.91 goals a game and surrendering 2.52. Despite not being long-time rivals, since the Panthers joined the NHL in 1993, they have never been an easy opponent.
When these two teams meet on Wednesday, everyone’s attention will be on Thachuk, who has 24 points in 16 games since relocating to the Sunshine State. Not only is he leading the team in scoring, but he’s also their leader with 37 penalty minutes. It would never be fair to compare Thachuk to Marchand, but he has an edge to his game and is never afraid to walk the line. He’s a superstar who won’t just hurt you along the boards; he’ll also hurt you on the scoreboard. Replacing a franchise icon like Huberdeau would not be easy, but Tkachuk has made the transition much smoother than anyone could have imagined.
If Bergeron doesn’t find the scoresheet in Tampa Bay, he’ll hit the ice in Miami looking for his next point. In his career against the Panthers (62 games), Bergy has 26 goals and 28 assists, good enough for 54 points, which all rank within the top five for totals against opponents in his distinguished career.
Friday, Nov. 25 @ 1:00 PM vs. Carolina Hurricanes (TD Garden)
On Thursday, most people will eat dinner with friends and family, watch football, and prepare themselves mentally for Black Friday. It is only fitting that the Bruins will take their quest for league history to the next step on a day with the word black in it since they are the original black and gold. With an 11-0-0 start on TD Garden ice, the B’s look to become the first team in history to start a season 12-0-0, besting the mark set by the Blackhawks in 1963-64 and most recently tied by the Panthers in 2020-21. The only thing standing in their way is the Carolina Hurricanes.
Fans hate to reminisce about what the Hurricanes did to the Bruins last season, rolling to a 3-0 record in the regular season, outscoring the hometown boys 16-1. Things didn’t get any better in the first round of the playoffs when the former team from Hartford eliminated their long-time rivals in seven games, once again leading in the scoring department 23-20. Right now, the Canes are on a four-game winning streak against the B’s, which dates back to 2019-20.
These statistics are in the past, though, and these are not the same Bruins or Hurricanes teams from last year. Right now, the Canes may be the sixth-best team in the goals-against category; however, they have yet to be the offensive threat they could be, currently ranked 23rd overall in goals scored. Their record is 10-5-3 (23 points), which is good enough for second in the Metropolitan Division behind the Devils, who are easily the biggest surprise in the game today.
For the Bruins to make history on Friday afternoon, they will need to find a way to get some goals past Frederik Andersen or Antti Raanta while slowing down Martin Necas, who leads the team with 22 points. Of course, if Necas isn’t collecting points, he’s dishing off to Andrei Svechnikov, who leads the team with 12 goals, and Sebastian Aho, who has nine himself.
Historically, the Bruins still maintain a nice lead in the overall series with the former Whalers/Hurricanes franchise, thanks to a 110-74-16-7 record through 207 games. Since making his debut in 2003-04, Bergeron has played 62 games against the Canes, racking up 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points. Should the captain go pointless during the two-game trip in Florida, which should be tough considering he’s got six points in his last five games, he returns home and could net his historic point in front of the Garden faithful.
Check next week for another Hub of Hockey Weekly post, where we preview more upcoming Bruins games. Also, don’t forget to follow Causeway Crowd on social media for game-day trivia and player-of-the-game polls!