The San Jose Sharks (14-24-9, seventh Pacific) head to New England in continuation of the longest road trip of the season to face the powerhouse Boston Bruins (36-5-4, first Atlantic).
The Bruins have won eight of their last nine, including a 4-2 victory over the Sharks at SAP Center on Jan. 7. The team also happens to boast the most formidable home record in the NHL, at 21-1-3.
Not a lot has changed for both sides since the Sharks last saw the B’s in California. Boston have continued their winning ways, even without helpful secondary scorer, Jake Debrusk. One of the themes for Boston has been the team’s ability to earn two points, no matter who is out of the line-up.
San Jose have shown that they can keep up with some of the best lately, forcing New Jersey’s Jack Hughes to overtime and solving Dallas’ Jake Oettinger in a remarkable comeback. Even with rumors swirling about the future of their best two players, Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson, the group has found a way to remain positive and celebrate its achievements one day at a time.
At other times, such as last night, they have shown moments of weakness. The Sharks dropped 5-3 last night to the fellow basement dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets after holding the lead on two separate occasions.
Will the Sharks respond?
Whether they win or lose at TD Garden today, the most important thing San Jose can do as a group is show they have some fight. The road trip did not start on good terms, especially given the opponent. The Sharks are playing some incredibly talented teams on the road over the next few days and missed an opportunity against a beatable Columbus team. To prevent this road trip from becoming a disaster, it will help for the Sharks to regain some momentum and give the Bruins a run for their money.
The Sharks have been getting some offensive relief of late, with goal scoring from outside the top-6. Nick Bonino has had an excellent start to 2023, with 4 goals in his last five game and 7 points out of nine games in January. He, along with players brought in by general manager Mike Grier, such as Nico Sturm, Steven Lorentz and Oskar Lindblom, could provide some serious help if they can score at a higher rate.
With rumors that San Jose might trade some of their best scorers, these might be the players the team relies on to pick up the slack for the rest of the season. If Meier and Karlsson slump on this long road trip, the depth forwards will need to step their game up to keep the game close.
The Finnish netminder has been at the end of some unfortunate results this season. In 19 starts, Kahkonen has only won five games so far. It is extremely challenging to win with the team in front of him, but there are some games and moments where Kahkonen could truly be the difference maker.
His recent performances, a 7-1 loss to Edmonton and last night’s 5-3 loss to Columbus, show a goaltender who is struggling to find his confidence and form. Similar to the challenge presented to the depth scorers, Kakhonen might soon find himself as the main option in net after the trade deadline. Let’s all hope that Kahkonen, who still has the potential to find his game, gets there sooner than later.
Bold prediction: 4-2, San Jose. The Bruins don’t take the Sharks seriously, and San Jose hands them a rare home ice loss. James Reimer steals the game and Logan Couture gets the opening goal.