Just The Facts:
When: 7:00 PM ET
Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Where to watch: NESN, TVAS, SN360, SNE, SNP, FS-F
Where to listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub
The Bruins are 7-1-2 in their last ten games, the only regulation loss coming against the Washington Capitals back on December 14th. They’ve eclipsed 50 points on the season through 38 games. Coach Cassidy and his staff are finely tuning playing time to suit their opponents, and it’s having a dual effect - first, it’s resting their minute-munchers (ahemCHARA) against opponents like the Ottawa Senators twice in the last week, and second, it’s providing valuable playing experience to the young players on the team. First line in a scoring “slump”, netting 13 points in the team’s last ten games? No problem; the “third” line has contributed 30.
By contrast, the Florida Panthers have a few things in common with the Bruins’ previous opponent, the New York Islanders. Florida sits in the middle of their (our, Atlantic) division, chasing the wild card spot but behind by several wins. They have a talented first line in Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgeny Dadonov, a trio that has accounted for 16 points in the last 10 games. Like the Islanders, the Panthers are a bit top-heavy on this front, with the second line bringing in 13 points in the same time span (driven by Vincent Trocheck, ridden by Connor Brickley and Denis Malgin) while the third and fourth lines have contributed just as much combined as the second line on its own. Florida also has weak defensive depth, as evidenced by their reliance on their top pair. In net, ol’ pal Roberto Luongo wasn’t doing TOO badly, but he got injured, and James Reimer is struggling with a 3.01 GAA and .912 SV%.
Players to Watch
- Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk. They look more and more comfortable each night.
- Zdeno Chara. This may be another unusual night where he plays fewer than 20 minutes.
- David Pastrnak. After playing a real-low 12ish minutes against the Islanders, what will it take for him to round back into form?
- For Florida, it may be worth watching how many minutes their top line has to play through two periods. Aleksandr Barkov and Vincent Trocheck, their top two centers, are averaging over 20 minutes per game. Their top defensive pairing of Keith Yandle (26min) and Aaron Ekblad (24min) are destined to be overworked.
Rat Trick. Merlot Line.