Just the Facts:
Game Time: 1:00 PM
TV Broadcast: NESN, SN1
Radio Broadcast: 98.5 The Sports Hub, Panthers Radio Network
Rival SB Nation Site: Litter Box Cats
Season Record: Bruins 15-9-3, 33 points | Panthers 14-11-4, 32 points
Nothing gets the blood boiling like a matinee rivalry game between divisional opponents featuring Bears and Fancy Cats. Truth be told, it’s hard to not look at this game as a trap game. Coming off a West Coast road trip, followed up by a deflating loss to Nashville and an emotional comeback win over Montreal, trying to get revved up for a Panthers game in December is a difficult task. Especially when a team that’s been poor at home (5-7-1) welcomes a team that’s been better on the road (7-5-2).
Boston has come away empty-handed just once in their last 10 games, going 7-1-2 since November 19th. While December has started off on the wrong skate blade, going 2-1-2, the Bruins now look to face 4 teams in 5 games that are on the Wild Card bubble, including 3 teams that are out of playoff picture as of today.
A big part of the Bruins recent success can be attributed to goaltender Tuukka Rask. Coming off a phenomenal game against Montreal, Rask now has a .946 SV% his last 7 games, allowing more than 2 goals just twice in that same span. He’ll look to continue that success against the Panthers, who he simply owns more than any other team in the league over his career. Already 1-0-0 this year with a 1.00 GAA and .969 SV%, Tuukka has an outstanding 13-2-1 record against the Cats, with a .955 SV%, 1.29 GAA, and 3 SOs.
The team as a whole looks to use their win over Montreal as a bit of a boost. Patrice Bergeron has recorded at least a point in 14 of his last 17 games since the start of November, with 5 Goals and 11 Assists, while linemate Brad Marchand has points in 3 of his last 4. While David Krejci has certainly cooled off compared to his start this year, he does have points in 5 of his last 7 games, but the real story is his linemate Loui Eriksson, who has goals in two straight games, is scoring at the highest points-per-game ratio of his career, and is putting up his best Points60 numbers since the 2012-13 season.
Down in the South, Florida has been successful while under the radar, yet that in part is due to their Jekyll & Hyde play. Florida has both a 5-game winning and 5-game losing streak this season, on top of a couple more 3-game skids. Yet the Panthers sit just one point behind the Bruins in the wild card picture, due to their ability to get to extra hockey. The Panthers have played 8 overtime games this year, compared to the Bruins’ 5.
With the Panthers come a couple former Bruins players. Jaromir Jagr has been trying to get his mojo back via his mullet, but whatever hair growth he’s had so far hasn’t helped his production on the ice. Despite tying Marcel Dionne for 4th all-time in goal scoring on Thursday night, Jagr has managed just two goals in his last 14 games. While catching Brett Hull is likely, and Gordie Howe is slightly possible, Jagr’s chance of sniffing Gretzky’s goal mark is seeming impossible. Still, Jagr leads the Panthers with 21 points on the year. On the other end of greatness, Shawn Thornton comes back to town once again. Thornton has been in and out of the Panthers’ lineup most of the year, appearing in just 14 games. He currently has 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, 35 PIMs, and the worst possession numbers of his career. And Reilly Smith returns to Boston for the first time since the Smith/Hayes swap. Reilly actually has more goals and points than Jimmy, but shhhhhhh it’s okay let’s not talk about that.
Scoring overall isn’t a strong suit of the Panthers. Florida remains one of two teams in the NHL without a double-digit goal-scorer, the other being Buffalo. That said, they’re only 14th out of 30 in Goals For, since top-to-bottom there isn’t a major drop-off in production. They’ve also gotten some big help in net from Roberto Luongo, who at points has looked ten years younger in net. He’s posted a .950+ SV% in 8 of his 23 games played. But like the team around him, when he’s bad, he’s real bad, with a sub-.875 SV% in 4 games played. Ultimately, the Panthers are the epitome of average this year. Not good at any one thing, but not terrible either. Should be a close one.
Brad Marchand's Rat Trick from the year of our lord 2011.
Fancy Stats for Fancy Cats
The Bruins had no business whatsoever winning their last game against Montreal...
Their last game against Florida was a different story. The teams were pretty much neck-and-neck in terms of scoring chances, but Rask lead the team to another road victory.