December 27 – Day 78 – Bruins try to jump to top of the Atlantic Division

Thanks to a clutch save from Jake Allen in the ninth round of the shutout, the St. Louis Blues were able to claim the extra point over the Dallas Stars in last night’s Game of the Day.

After playing a scoreless 26:18, First Star of the Game Alexander Steen scored a power play goal, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Third Star Vladimir Tarasenko, to give the Blues a one-goal lead.  It was short-lived though, as Cody Eakin and Jamie Benn assisted Colton Sceviour to knot the score at one-all.  The Stars scored their second and final goal of regulation with only 37 seconds remaining in the period when Patrick Sharp and Alex Goligoski assisted Tyler Seguin to his 20th goal of the season, giving Dallas a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.

The Blues waited to score the game-tying goal until only 1:50 remained in regulation, as Jay Bouwmeester and David Backes assisted Second Star Robby Fabbri to send the game to overtime and, ultimately, the shoutout.

While he won’t get a goal added to his season total, Backes scored the final goal of the shootout, but it was Allen, who made the save on Vernon Fiddler’s shot, who secured the Blues‘ victory.

Allen improves his record to 17-8-2 with the win, saving 22 of 24 (91.7%), while Antti Niemi’s record falls to 15-5-3, saving 35 of 37 (94.6%).

The DtFR Game of the Day Series now stands at 30-12-6, favoring the home squad by 26 points.  Last night’s game was the second straight that required a shootout, as Ottawa beat Florida on Tuesday, the last day of action before the Christmas break.

Tonight’s schedule consists of nine games, with the action getting started at 5 p.m. eastern when Boston visits Ottawa (RDS2).  Three games follow at 6 p.m. eastern (Columbus at Florida, Toronto at the New York Islanders [TVAS/SN] and St. Louis at Dallas), trailed an hour later by Carolina at Chicago.  Three games get started at 8 p.m. eastern (Pittsburgh at Winnipeg, Arizona at Colorado and Philadelphia at Anaheim), and the nightcap follows an hour later when Edmonton visits Calgary (SN).

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Ottawa, St. Louis at Dallas and Edmonton at Calgary), while two of those are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (sorry EdmontonCalgary!).  Even though Dallas and St. Louis just played last night and should carry over a lot of emotion, the BostonOttawa game has a more immediate effect on the standings.

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This will be both teams’ fifth time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they both have a 1-2-1 record.  The lone time the Bruins were the road squad in the series was November 7 then they visited Montréal – they lost 4-2.  Ottawa has been the home side twice, winning their most recent game 4-2 over the Sharks (December 18), but losing 3-1 on October 11 against the Canadiens.

The 19-11-4 Boston Bruins currently sit third in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  They are currently riding a two-game losing skid, their most recent showing being a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres.  Don’t let those recent results fool you, though: Boston has been a quietly good team this season, especially on the offensive end of the ice.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 110 shots, the Bruins have accounted for 1018 attempts so far this season.  Exactly 10%, a significant portion, of those shots have found the back of the net for 102 goals, led by Brad Marchand’s 15.  Especially strong for Boston has been their power play.  Of the 90 opportunities the Bruins have been given, they’ve scored 26 goals (led by Loui Eriksson’s seven) for a 28.89% success rate.  Although it is always wise to avoid penalties, Ottawa should probably take special care to avoid the box this evening, as Boston has a knack for making teams pay.

While the defense started the season playing very poorly, they have clamped down to give up only 84 goals to date.  The main reason for this has not been so much the play of 13-8-3 Tuukka Rask and co., but the defense allowing only 959 shots to reach net (led by Adam McQuaid’s 56 blocks).  Although the penalty kill has been only average (currently killing 81.36%), it has gotten in on the goal-scoring.  When shorthanded, the Bruins have scored six times already this season, well above the league average of two.

The 17-12-6 Ottawa Senators currently hold the second wild card position as the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division and eighth-best in the Eastern Conference.  Similar to their New England opponent, the Senators are also riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent game a 2-1 shootout loss at Florida on Tuesday.  I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about Ottawa, but their offense and goaltending have had to cover up for the poor defensive play on a regular basis this season.

I usually try to start with a positive, and Ottawa‘s offense is certainly one.  Thanks in no part to only 969 shots put on net (led by Mike Hoffman’s 95), the Sens have scored 102 goals so far this season, led by  Hoffman’s 17 tallies.  While in no way as strong as Boston‘s, Ottawa‘s power play has been better than average, as they’ve scored 21 (led by Hoffman’s four) on 108 attempts for a 19.4% success rate.

The other end of the ice has not been quite as spectacular.  Although Erik Karlsson already has 71 blocks this season, the Sens have allowed 1180 shots to reach 15-9-4 Craig Anderson and co., who have a combined 92% save percentage, only half a percent above league average.  In addition to allowing too many shots into the crease, the penalty kill is also not going Ottawa‘s way.  They’ve allowed 26 goals on 118 attempts, killing only 77.97%.  If the defense could do more to improve these two statistics, they could be considered a significant threat for the cup this season.  Until then, Ottawa can only be considered a playoff stepping stone.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Rask (four shutouts [tied for third in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (15 wins [tied for sixth in the league]), Hoffman (17 goals [tied for sixth in the league]) and Karlsson (29 assists [tied for league lead] and 38 points [sixth in the league]).

Given Ottawa‘s poor defense and penalty kill, it is hard to pick against the Bruins, even if they are the visiting team.  I expect Boston to jump into the division lead with a win tonight.

One thought on “December 27 – Day 78 – Bruins try to jump to top of the Atlantic Division”

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