The Boston Bruins are in a rare position this season–they’re coming off a loss. They dropped a 5-4 verdict to the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell last time out. That ended a six game winning streak and was only the Bruins third loss in their last 11 games. They’re in a great position to get back on the winning track tonight as they travel to Detroit to take on the lowly Red Wings at the Little Caesars Arena.
Given their history of success and run over the past few decades it’s hard to get used to calling the Detroit Red Wings ‘lowly’ but they have only 9 points making them the worst team in the NHL at the moment. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2013, they haven’t reached the Conference Finals since 2009 and they haven’t reached the playoffs in three years and counting. Jeff Blashill is reportedly on the ‘hot seat’ due to the team’s miserable performance but he’s only partially to blame. To some extent, the team mortgaged their future during the glory years and are now having to clear contracts off the books before they can even think about a serious rebuilding effort. That leaves Blashill working with a team that simply lacks talent and depth throughout the lineup.
The Wings haven’t done much of anything well this year. They’re dead last in goals scored per game at 2.06. and #20 in shots on goal per game (30.6). They’ve also got the worst scoring defense in the NHL allowing 4.00 goals per game. That gives them a -1.94 goals per game differential–by far the worst in the league. The next worst differential belongs to the Los Angeles Kings at -1.40. The Wings are #25 in shots against allowing 33.1 per game. Special teams have been nothing to write home about either–they’ve got the #26 power play in hockey (12.7%) and the worst penalty kill in the NHL (66.7%). Jimmy Howard is expected to get the start here and he’s been in horrific form this year with a 2-8-0 record, a 3.99 goals against average and a 0.887 save percentage.
The Bruins are at the other end of the spectrum and there aren’t really any phases of the game where they’re not excelling. They’re #3 in team offense scoring 3.73 goals per game and tied for #3 in team defense allowing just 2.33 goals against per game. They’ve got the top power play in the league at 31.4%–the only team in the league hitting on over 30% of their man advantage opportunities. They’ve also got the #5 power play in the NHL killing off 86.7% of opponent man advantage chances. Tukka Rask will get the start here and he’s putting up Vezina Trophy like numbers at 7-1-1, a 1.88 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. The Bruins are fortunate this year to have an excellent backup in Jaroslav Halak who has a 4-1-1 record in his 6 starts.
As strange as it may sound, Detroit had the Bruins’ number last year winning 3 of the 4 meetings. They won both meetings in Detroit and the teams split a pair of games in Boston. The Red Wings won’t be so fortunate this year and with the Bruins having plenty of teams in their rear view mirror they’ll be all over Detroit here.