April 3 – Day 171 – Will the Bruins get back in?

The success in Pittsburgh continues with a 5-0 victory in Brooklyn in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The game-winner found the back of the net at the 12:41 mark of the first.  What makes this one special is not only that it was an unassisted shorty, but that it was Oskar Sundqvist’s first tally of his career.

The insurance goals started piling on in the second period, with Patric Hornqvist finding the back of the net at the 8:09 mark, assisted by Justin Schultz and Sidney Crosby (his 49th helper of the season).  Second Star of the Game Matt Cullen struck with 4:30 remaining in the frame with a wrister for his 14th tally of the season, assisted by Third Star Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr.  The Pens didn’t score again in the period, and took their 3-0 lead into the third.

At the 10:40 mark of the final frame, Phil Kessel extended Pittsburgh‘s lead to four with a wrister, assisted by Kris Letang (his 46th helper of the season).  The final goal belonged to Kuhnhackl, assisted by Cullen (his 14th helper of the season) and Justin Schultz.

First Star Matthew Murray earns the shutout win, saving all 24 shots he faced, while Jean-Francois Berube takes the loss after saving only 28 of 33 (84.8%).

Pittsburgh‘s victory is the second straight for the road squads, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 78-45-18, but favoring the home sides by 35 points.

We’ve got five games on tap today, starting with Boston at Chicago at 12:30 p.m. eastern (NBC/TVAS/SN).  Philadelphia at Pittsburgh is the next game to start, dropping the puck at 5 p.m. eastern.  Two games go under way three hours later (St. Louis at Colorado and Minnesota at Winnipeg), and Dallas at Anaheim, this evening’s nightcap, starts at 9 p.m. eastern.

A majority of today’s games are division rivalries (Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, St. Louis at Colorado and Minnesota at Winnipeg), but only two are between teams qualifying for the playoffs (Philadelphia at Pittsburgh and Dallas at Anaheim).

The game I’m most concerned with actually isn’t listed in either of those groups, but instead the BruinsBlackhawks contest.

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This afternoon’s game will be Boston‘s 20th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 8-10-1 record.  They most recent series  appearance was Friday’s 6-5 victory in St. Louis.  Chicago has been featured 23 times before tonight’s game, where they own a 10-10-3 record.  Their last time featured was Tuesday, when they lost 4-1 in Minnesota.

The 41-29-8 Boston Bruins currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team left out of the Eastern playoffs.  To get there, they’ve played the fourth best offense, but they’ve been held back by the 13th worst defense.  A more in-depth analysis of Boston‘s play can be found within Friday’s article.

That 6-5 victory in St. Louis was not only Boston‘s most recent appearance in the Game of the Day series, but also their most recent played period.  As Detroit is inactive today, a win will propel the Bruins past the Red Wings for the third division qualifier, while a loss wastes Boston‘s game in hand.

The 45-26-7 Chicago Blackhawks are currently the third best team in the Central Division and fourth best in the Western Conference.  They’ve been led by the eighth best defense in the league, but have also played the ninth best offense.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Tuesday’s article.

The Blackhawks‘ last game was their 5-4 overtime victory in Winnipeg.  Chicago has already clinched a playoff spot, but that does not mean that they have nothing more to play for until the postseason.  A win provides them the opportunity to pull within two points of the second place Blues, but they’ll need some help from Colorado for that to happen.

Chicago has already made their annual vision to Boston, with the Bruins winning 4-2 on March 3.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (35 win [seventh most in the league]) and Chicago‘s Patrick Kane (96 points [leads the league], 40 goals [third most in the league] and 56 assists [third most in the league]).

I like Chicago to win this one, even with Corey Crawford continuing to miss games.  Their offense should not have too many issues with Boston‘s defense, and will have the crowd at their back to propel them to victory.

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