The Boston Bruins are taking their show on the road.
Boston is set to leave on a five-game excursion through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Midwestern United States beginning Friday night in Vancouver against the Canucks. The Black and Gold are looking to improve on their 11-10-3 record away from TD Garden this season to further consolidate their current playoff position. The Bruins are four points clear of their closest challengers, the Florida Panthers, for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins are 9-8-2 against Western Conference clubs this season after a 5-3 loss against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. Three of those wins have come away from TD Garden with victories in Arizona, Minnesota, and Dallas. Four of Boston’s five opponents on this upcoming trip currently reside in the Western Conference playoff structure. The Bruins are winless (0-3-1) in four road games against Western playoff opponents so far this season. Boston’s last West Coast road trip in early December resulted in one win from four games. They will hope for better results as they embark on their longest road trip of the season.
Fri. 2/13 @ Vancouver Canucks
The trip begins on Friday night at Rogers Arena against the Vancouver Canucks. The Bruins will return to the place they pitched a 4-0 shutout in game seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, earning the Black and Gold their first championship since the days of Orr in 1972.
Times have changed since then as Alain Vigneault and Roberto Luongo have moved on while rookie head coach Willie Desjardins and goalie Ryan Miller have taken their place. The Canucks are currently sitting in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The former Buffalo Sabres netminder is 25-14-1 on the season with six shutouts, second only to Marc-Andre Fleury’s eight. Offseason acquisition Radim Vrbata has found a home on the top line playing alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin, scoring 20 goals this season. Vancouver is 15-7-1 against Eastern opponents this year, but is 5-6-1 facing Atlantic Division foes. Boston will be seeking revenge on a Vancouver club that inflicted a 6-2 defeat on them during their last visit to Rogers Arena in December 2013.
Mon. 2/16 @ Calgary Flames
A weekend off will give way to a Monday night clash with the upstart Calgary Flames. Coach Bob Hartley has his team in position to make the postseason for the first time since 2009 after leading a Calgary team that finished with the second-worst record in the West last year. Captain Mark Giordano is healthy after suffering a broken ankle last season, leading the club in scoring with 44 points. Rookie sensation and Calder contender Johnny Gaudreau is second among all NHL rookies with 40 points while second-year forward Sean Monahan leads the Flames with 17 goals. Offseason acquisition Jonas Hiller has stabilized the Flames between the pipes this season. The Bruins have reeled off five straight victories dating back to March 2010 over the Flames, outscoring them 21-2 in that span. Tuukka Rask has only allowed one goal in his three career starts against Calgary while sporting a .986 save percentage. A very intriguing matchup awaits the two clubs inside of the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday.
Wed. 2/18 @ Edmonton Oilers
Boston will then make the 172 mile journey north to Edmonton to reunite with former Bruin and Oilers captain Andrew Ference on Wednesday. The Western Conference cellar dwellers are in line for another top-five draft choice after a disappointing season that saw coach Dallas Eakins shown the door in December. Boston extended their winning streak over the Oilers to 13 games after a four-goal third period propelled them to a 5-2 victory on November 6 at TD Garden. It appears to be an easy win on paper, but this game has the makings of a “trap game” for the Bruins. This is the only non-playoff team the Black and Gold will face on their trip, however 11 of Edmonton’s 15 victories this season have come against Eastern Conference opponents. Through all the disappointment and dysfunction in Oil Country this season, Boston should not get complacent and focus on depositing two precious points in the bank.
Fri. 2/20 @ St. Louis
The Bruins will then head to St. Louis for a Friday night matchup with the Blues at Scottrade Center. Goals from Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron, along with 33 saves from Rask, propelled Boston to a 2-0 victory over the Blue Note on November 18.
The Blues biggest weapon this season has been Vladimir Tarasenko. The 23-year-old Russian winger has already set career-highs in goals, assists, and points through just 54 games this season. He is fourth in the league with 28 goals on the year and is the top dog for the NHL’s third most prolific offense. St. Louis has five other goal-scorers in double digits this season, demonstrating their balance and depth up front. The Bruins will not be deterred by the Blues, however, as they have shown an ability to take points away from their recent matchups with St. Louis. Boston has earned at least one point in nine of their last 10 tilts against the Blues (3-1-6), including a six-game point streak at Scottrade Center (3-0-3) dating back to 2003.
Sun. 2/22 @ Chicago Blackhawks
The road trip concludes with a nationally televised matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon. The Hawks got the better of Boston back on November 12, winning 3-2 at TD Garden. Patrick Kane scored the game-winner that night while backup Scott Darling made 32 saves in the victory. The first overall pick in 2007 has lit up the score sheet so far this season with 26 goals and a league-leading 59 points. In addition to Kane, captain Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Bryan Bickell are also in double-figures for goals this season. The league’s second-best defense (2.26 goals allowed/game) and top penalty-kill (87.5%) are commandeered by a balanced defense corps led by Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. The Bruins will be thoroughly tested by every aspect of coach John Quenneville’s balanced hockey club paired with the 21,000 Hawks supporters occupying the “Madhouse on Madison”. The matchup between these two Original Six rivals is NBC’s showcase game as part of “Hockey Day in America”.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW