This week, the Boston Bruins will return home after a mini three-game adventure through the southwest after visiting Denver, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, grabbing an additional four points as their impressive season continues. After witnessing their historical season-opening home win streak end in a shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, the boys loaded up the plane and headed west for a reset.
They beat up on a depleted Colorado Avalanche lineup with a 4-0 win on Wednesday before dropping a somewhat questionable decision to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday 4-3. Called off icings aside, the Bruins rebounded in grande fashion by getting their revenge on former head coach Bruce Cassidy and those pesky Golden Knights with a 3-1 victory on Sunday.
It was a busy week for the Black and Gold; however, the team has an extra day off this week as they welcome a few teams to TD Garden with a five-game home stand that kicks off on Tuesday night.
Tuesday, Dec. 13 @ 7:00 PM vs. New York Islanders (TD Garden)
The New York Islanders (17-12-0) come to town for the first time in 2022, bringing one of the game’s best young goalies, Ilya Sorokin. The Isles sit in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and are 6-4 in their last ten games. Furthermore, they rank eighth in goals scored and fifth in goals against, which is quite an improvement for a team who missed the postseason last year and fired their head coach Barry Trotz.
First-year coach Lane Lambert is working a new system with his players and is pushing for a playoff spot thanks to Sorokin’s 2.36 goals-against average (GAA) and .925 save percentage (SV%), which rank amongst the league’s best. Interestingly, Sorokin has a 1-1-1 record against the Bruins in three career starts. Moreover, he’s given up four goals, producing a 1.71 GAA and .938 SV%.
All eyes may be on the goaltending matchup; however, the two players to watch will be Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson. Barzal took over a month to score his first goal of the season (and currently sits with three), but he’s among the league leaders in assists with 27 already. One of the players who has benefitted from his hot start is Nelson, who has 14 goals and 28 points after 29 games. This duo may not be the best in the league, but connecting on a timely goal could make or break a wide-open contest.
Historically, the Bruins are winning the all-time matchup against the Isles thanks to a 96-59-21-7 record through 183 games. Last year the B’s lost two of the three matchups, getting outscored 10-8 in the contests, which continued a stretch of bad games against their New York rivals. During the shortened 2020-21 season, the Isles dominated the Bruins winning five of the first eight matchups before dropping the final three late in the season. Furthermore, the last time Boston took a season series against the Islanders was in 2019-20, when they claimed two out of three, winning one in overtime.
For the Bruins, someone to watch out for is Taylor Hall, who has 28 points in 30 games against the Islanders. He’s netted 16 goals when they matchup, which is the second most against any club (Colorado) during his career. Of course, if Jeremy Swayman starts in net, fans will be anxious to see if he can rebound after a subpar game in Arizona.
These two teams will meet again on January 18 and February 18, 2023, with one contest at UBS Arena and the finale at TD Garden.
Thursday, Dec. 16 @ 7:00 PM vs. Los Angeles Kings (TD Garden)
Over in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings are clawing their way to a top spot in the Pacific Division with a 15-11-5 record, good enough for 35 points, just six behind the Golden Knights. Last season the Kings were upset in the opening round in seven games. However, despite an aging roster, they continue to collect wins and be contenders ten years after winning their first Stanley Cup in 2012.
Right now, the Kings are employing a goalie platoon with long-time starter Jonathan Quick sharing the duties with Calvin Petersen (who recently got waived) and Phoenix Copley. However, only Copley, through two starts, has great numbers, while Quick and Petersen have numbers below .900 SV% and above 3.00 GAA. Captain Anze Kopitar is not the team’s leading scorer; that designation belongs to Kevin Fiala, who has 31 points in 30 games, thanks to 22 assists. Meanwhile, the team’s top scorer is Gabriel Vilardi, the only double-digit player with 13 goals.
The Kings come to Boston on their trip through the East Coast, resulting in mixed results since the team is 4-3-3 in their last ten and giving up more goals than they are scoring. Historically, they were a horrible team when visiting the old Boston Garden, going 10-41-3-0 until 1996, but have found success recently in TD Garden (formerly The Fleet Center), compiling a 9-7-3-1 record in 20 games. The Bruins still maintain a comfortable lead in the matchup thanks to an 86-45-13-2 record.
Hampus Lindholm busted out of the gate to start the season on a hot streak many pegged would earn him the Norris Trophy at the end. However, he’s tallied just two points since November 17, after opening with 18 points in 17 games. As a former member of a California team, the Anaheim Ducks, he has plenty of experience against the Kings, appearing in 34 games. Furthermore, Lindholm has 15 points and a plus-ten rating in those contests, which ranks among the best numbers he’s collected against any opponent besides the Coyotes, his favorite opponent.
The B’s will travel to Hollywood on January 5, 2023, for the final contest between these long-time rivals, barring another meeting in the Stanley Cup Final in June.
Saturday, Dec. 17 @ 1:00 PM vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (TD Garden)
The Columbus Blue Jackets venture to TD Garden for the first time in the 2022-23 season, having hosted the B’s back on October 28, losing 4-0 at Nationwide Arena. Since that day, the Jackets have plummeted to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division with a 10-15-2 record, the worse mark in the Eastern Conference. If those numbers didn’t hurt, they currently have a minus-31 rating as a team, the third worse rating in the entire league.
The Bruins will have to shut down superstar Johnny Gaudreau who leads his team with 28 points in 26 games. He’s tied with Boone Jenner with nine goals apiece but has the edge in assists 19-11 since they are the only two players with 20 or more points. Between the pipes, Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlinkins are struggling to stop picks and win games. However, Daniil Tarasov is 2-3-1 in six starts, with the best save percentage (.912%) and lowest goals-against average at 3.17.
The Blue Jackets are now dealing with a boatload of injuries and shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Bruins, who have played exceptionally well at home. In the previous game between the two clubs, Linus Ullmark posted a 30-save shutout while his teammates scored four goals off 39 shots. Matt Grzelcyk had the game-winner in the first period, while Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, and David Pastrnak also collected goals.
These two teams will meet again on March 30, 2023, in Boston, which could be a crucial game for the B’s, who could be fighting for every point to earn the top spot in the conference.
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!