The Boston Bruins (8-1-2) are second in the Atlantic Division behind the Buffalo Sabres (?!), but that’s a far better record than the San Jose Sharks (4-7-1) who sit in seventh in the Pacific Division thanks to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Bruins are riding a three-game win streak. The man everyone loves to hate, Brad Marchand, was named the NHL’s first star of the week after notching eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) in the past three games. On Sunday, he had five points in the Bruins’ 7-4 win over the New York Rangers.
Sadly, Marchand isn’t the only Bruin that the Sharks will have have to worry about. David Pastrnak is the league’s leading scorer with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists). Eight-time nominee and four-time Selke Award winner Patrice Bergeron rounds out the Bruins’ top line.
Almost every player on the team is in the positive in the plus/minus column. In contrast, almost every player on the Sharks is in the minus in the plus/minus column.
In net, the Bruins have a pair of formidable goaltenders. Tuukka Rask is 5-0-1 with a 1.48 goals against average and a .952 save percentage. Jaroslav Halak is 3-1-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Either one is looking better than the Sharks goaltenders, who have both continued last season’s struggles into this year so far.
I Got 5 On It
The Sharks’ special teams are doing great this season, but so are the Bruins. The Sharks’ penalty kill is tops in the league, cooking at 93.18 percent, which is good because the Bruins have the second-best power play in the league with 32.35 percent success rate.
On the other side of things, the Sharks’ power play is eleventh in the league at 23.81 percent, while Boston’s penalty kill is seventh at 85.29 percent.
They basically nullify each other, so the 5-on-5 play is likely what will carry the game. The Sharks need to be better 5-on-5; it’s what pundits, Sharks fans and Fear the Fin writers have been saying for a while now.
Captain Logan Couture called himself and some of the team’s top forwards out after Sunday’s game against the Ottawa Senators, saying he needs to be better and so do some other top players. Head Coach Pete DeBoer echoed that sentiment.
Some of that can start tonight against Boston. The Sharks are a much better possession team when all four lines are playing up to their potential.
The Next Episode
The next episode of the Sharks’ goaltending soap opera plays out on the ice tonight. Just when you thought Aaron Dell was going to create a goaltending controversy with his play in Montreal, he tossed up a stinker in Ottawa and Martin Jones was called upon to play in the third period, marking the first time Dell has ever been pulled from a start in the NHL.
Whether it’s Jones or Dell in net, there’s a lot of groans if you’re a Sharks fan. Both goaltenders have been bad this season and it seems like they really can’t rely on either one for a full 60 minutes.
Even before the season started, many people identified goaltending as a weakness for the Sharks. I realize that it will be tough to off-load Jones’ contract and Dell has virtually no value aside from a bag of pucks, but you have to figure that at some point Doug Wilson says enough is enough and pulls the trigger on a trade to bring in another goaltender. Either that, or they roll the dice on prospects Josef Korenar or Andrew Shortridge. Neither look like they’re NHL ready, but at this point in time I’m not sure I believe Jones or Dell are either.
Mama Said Knock You Out
If anything, I expect tonight’s game to be entertaining. I figure this is going to be a “if you can’t beat ’em, BEAT ’EM” type of game. The Sharks think they’ve hit rock bottom and when you’re down there, sometimes the only thing you can do is claw your way out. I expect that if San Jose finds itself down, players will start throwing their weight and their fists around.
Evander Kane’s not a fan of the way Zdeno Chara hit him last season and may be carrying a grudge. Dylan Gambrell has been known to drop the gloves every now and again. Brenden Dillon is always itching for a fight. They’ll find plenty of takers in Boston.
If the game looks like it’s out of reach or even if it looks like the Sharks need a little spark to get things going, look for someone to drop the gloves.
Bold Prediction: The Boston Bruins are a buzz saw and the Sharks are a piece of balsa wood that had the unfortunate luck of crossing the Bruins’ path. Sharks lose.
I’m predicting three fights, one of them involving a much younger, much dumber Boston player who thinks he can take on an angry Joe Thornton.
Drop your prediction below and bonus points if you can tell me what all my headlines have in common.