The Boston Bruins continue to defy all the odds with a 20-3 record and a 14-0 game unbeaten streak on home ice. This team, which effectively did nothing during the offseason to improve, was supposed to be a marginal playoff team at best; however, after two months of hockey, they are the number one contenders to capture the Presidents’ Trophy.
Last week, they dispatched the reigning conference champions, Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1 and followed that performance up by destroying the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche 5-1. Both wins took place at TD Garden, extending the Bruins’ NHL record for consecutive wins at home to start the regular season.
The B’s have quite a road trip ahead as they travel to the southwest, but before departing on the team plane, an old friend comes to town, and everyone has been anticipating this day for quite some time.
Monday, Dec. 5 @ 7:00 PM vs. Vegas Golden Knights (TD Garden)
Bruce Cassidy became the Bruins’ head coach in 2018 and one year later lost in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. He continued to find success behind the bench, winning the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year) in 2020. However, that was one of the final years before the smiles faded, and there was trouble in paradise.
Cassidy failed to advance to the Bruins in the postseason, and media outlets began publishing stories about the head coach losing the room. Star players were ready to abandon ship, which led management to fire him in the summer of 2022. The ink on his unemployment papers probably wasn’t even dry when the Golden Knights called to request his services.
On Monday night, Cassidy leads his new troops to face off against his old club on his old stomping grounds. It will be an epic showdown since the Golden Knights are the kings of the Western Conference and the Pacific Division, with an 18-7-1 record and 37 points. To say that these two points will go a long way toward the race for the best record in the league is an understatement.
Historically, the Bruins are 6-2-0 against the Golden Knights, who entered the league in 2018. The two teams split the season series last year, with each team winning on the road, which marked the first time the teams met since 2019 due to the pandemic. During the 2019-20 season, the Bruins swept both games, winning each contest by one goal, 4-3, and 3-2. Those wins extended the B’s win streak to five games, including both games from 2018-19 and the final matchup in 2017-18. The Golden Knights won the first-ever matchup between the two clubs on Oct. 15, 2018, 3-1, in Boston.
Currently, North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, native and former Boston University standout Jack Eichel leads his team in scoring thanks to 29 points through 26 games. Between the pipes, Logan Thompson is proving to be one of the game’s best young goalies with a 12-5-0 record, a .920 save percentage (SV%), and a 2.54 goals-against average (GAA).
For the Bruins, there’s been talk about the contract negotiations between the team and their star player David Pastrnak. Last week he netted two goals against the Avalanche, coming close to completing the hat trick late in the third period. He’s got six points in his last five games and sits 14 points ahead of Patrice Bergeron (20 points) as the team’s leading scorer.
The B’s will be in Las Vegas to wrap up their season series this Sunday, Dec. 11.
Wednesday, Dec. 3 @ 9:00 PM vs. Colorado Avalanche (Ball Arena)
This past Saturday night, in a marquee matchup, the Bruins hosted the defending Stanley Cup champions at TD Garden. In a game featuring two generational players, Nathan McKinnon and Pastrnak, the result was shocking as the B’s quickly took care of business and dismantled the Avs.
In last week’s Hub of Hockey, the research showed that the Bruins tend to split the season series with the Avalanche or allow their former divisional opponents to take it. We had to go back to the mid-1990s to find a season when Boston outduelled this franchise, which happened to be in Quebec City at the time. Five days after a massacre in Beantown, the Avs will be on home ice with the altitude on their side, looking to avoid getting swept for the first time since relocating in 1995.
It will be interesting to see if this upcoming game will feature a swap in net since Linus Ullmark will probably play on Monday and could get the night off in the rematch for Jeremy Swayman. Meanwhile, the Avalanche went with Pavel Francouz on Saturday, and despite how bad Alexander Georgiev has been of late, it might be wise to pencil him into the lineup to give the Bruins a new challenge.
Pastrnak and Trent Frederic each tallied two goals in the last meeting, with Jake DeBrusk scoring twice, one disallowed, to finish the night with his 100th career goal. The game was pretty one-sided in favor of the Bruins; however, no one can ever count out the Avalanche, who have Cale Makar in the lineup.
Wednesday marks the team’s final meeting unless they advance to the Stanley Cup Final in June.
Friday, Dec. 3 @ 9:30 PM vs. Arizona Coyotes (Mullett Arena)
After the anticipated dog fights with the Golden Knights and the Avalanche in Denver, the Bruins will hit the Arizona State college campus to play the Arizona Coyotes in their new home, Mullett Arena. It will be quite an experience because the arena only seats 5,025 fans, which is quite different from TD Garden’s 19,580.
According to various reports, the ice is one of the best playing surfaces in the league, which should be good for a Bruins team hungry for an offense. Arizona is full of snowbirds, people who travel south for the winter, so expect a packed house of black and gold jerseys. Fans in attendance are right on top of the action, and the small confines make them a part of the game.
Historically, the Bruins are 56-20-7-1 against the Coyotes since their relocation from Winnipeg in 1996. Their .714 winning percentage is the fourth-best mark in franchise history against an opponent, behind Seattle Kraken (1.000), Cleveland Barons (.758), and the Golden Knights (.750).
The numbers don’t lie since the Bruins are currently riding an 18-game win streak against the Coyotes franchise. The last time the team lost to the desert dogs was on Oct. 9, 2010, at the O2 Arena in London. It’s been so long that the only players still in a Boston uniform are Bergeron and David Krejci, while Brad Marchand was only a few weeks away from making his debut on Oct. 21, 2009.
To put this streak into even further perspective, the Bruins captain at the time, Zdeno Chara, just retired this offseason after 24 seasons and was on the ice with the Bruins Alumni group this past week. Meanwhile, the Coyotes were the Phoenix Coyotes then, before swapping out Phoenix for Arizona in June 2014.
Arizona currently sits in seventh place in the Central Division with a 7-11-4 record, good enough for 18 points, tied for second worse in the Western Conference. They have had a rough start to the season, playing their first six games on the road, including a 6-3 loss to the Bruins on Oct. 15 in Boston. When they return home for the game against the B’s, it will mark the end of a historic 14-game road trip that started on November 5 and runs through December 7.
Currently, Clayton Keller leads the pack in scoring with 21 points thanks to seven goals and 14 assists, with Lawson Crouse the only player to reach double digits in goals (10). Between the pipes, Karel Vejmekla has seen the most action with 16 games, which has produced a 6-6-3 record and .913 SV% and 3.02 GAA.
One key player to watch for the Bruins is Hampus Lindholm, a former west coast player with the Anaheim Ducks, who has faced off with the Coyotes 35 times in his career, scoring 18 points. He’s plus-14 against the team, tied for a personal best, with his totals against the Calgary Flames. Another player who enjoys playing the Coyotes is Taylor Hall, who has 28 points in 30 games. He recently had a great game against the Lightning and tends to strike when opponents least expect it, so it will be fun to watch him skate against a team he has found success against in the past.
Friday night marks the team’s final 2022-23 season meeting.
Sunday, Dec. 11 @ 8:00 PM vs. Vegas Golden Knights (T-Mobile Arena)
The Bruins open their week at home against the Golden Knights, so it only seems fitting to end their week with a game in Las Vegas. The preparation for this game will be the fallout from the tilt early in the week. If the Golden Knights end the Bruins’ home win streak, there will be redemption in the air. Should the B’s roll to another win, Cassidy and his guys will not want to repeat the same mistakes in front of their home crowd, so the outcome on Monday will dictate how this game plays out six days later.
Sunday night will be the season’s final meeting unless both teams advance to the Stanley Cup Final in June.
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!