As the Boston Bruins stare down another unusual 12:00 P.M. Eastern time puck drop, the classic question of readiness will undoubtedly be asked. Many fans and pundits alike see afternoon games as a detriment to the teams involved, as the earlier start time may interrupt the players’ typical gameday routine. Pregame naps must be moved or scrapped altogether, meals are rescheduled, and the game is played at a time that conflicts with the players’ internal body clock.
Amidst the myriad of complaints, most people seem to miss the fact that both teams are facing the same conditions. No real advantage should be gained based on the alternate start time, but good luck telling that to the Bruins. Over the course of the last three seasons, the B’s have played 28 regular-season games and eight playoff games at or before 3:00 P.M. local time. With the core remaining relatively consistent over that time, the results of these games may be a sign of what to expect in Game 4 against Tampa Bay.
The 2017-18 season saw the Bruins suit up in two afternoon playoff games, in addition to 10 regular season contests. The regular season games resulted in a 6-2-2 record, with Boston outscoring opponents 30-24. The playoffs weren’t quite as fruitful, as the club only managed to win one of their two afternoon tilts, again outscoring the Lightning 7-5. Overall, the B’s managed a plus-eight goal differential, along with a formidable .667 winning percentage in afternoon games during the 2017-18 campaign.
The Bruins continued their afternoon dominance in 2018-19, winning six of their eight regular-season games, and earning another point in a shootout loss. When playoff time rolled around, the B’s staved off elimination in Game 6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After dispatching Toronto, Boston picked up yet another W against the Carolina Hurricanes, en route to an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Afternoon contests once again proved advantageous for the Black and Gold, as they outscored opponents by 13 and recorded an outrageous .850 winning percentage overall.
Interestingly enough, the Bruins have played more afternoon games this season than in either of their previous two campaigns. As if the schedule was preparing them for Saturday’s pivotal Game 4, the B’s laced up in 10 afternoon games during the regular season, and more importantly, four playoff games.
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While their regular-season superiority was on full display, collecting 13 of a possible 20 points, the postseason hasn’t been quite as kind. During the round-robin, the Bruins dropped afternoon games to Philadelphia and Washington, before redeeming themselves with two wins against the ‘Canes.
Their plus-seven regular season goal differential quickly plunged to minus-one in the playoffs, leading some to wonder about the Bruins’ ability to get the job done before the dinner bell rings.
What Happens Today?
Overall, the Bruins have seen tremendous success in afternoon games over the last three seasons. With a total winning percentage of .681 and a plus-27 goal differential through 36 games, the B’s have absolutely terrorized the league over this stretch. Despite only playing .500 hockey in the afternoon this postseason, history would suggest the Bruins are in for another dominant performance.
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The B’s well-documented struggles during the round-robin have since been overshadowed by decisive Round 1 victories, a trend the club will look to see continue during Saturday’s unusual afternoon Game 4 tilt.
Jeremy is a teacher and hockey coach at several prominent Canadian Prep Schools, involved in player development both on and off the ice. He has primarily served as assistant coach responsible for defencemen, special teams and video. Jeremy has helped develop many athletes that are now playing at the next level, including the CHL, NCAA Division I, World Championship (Canadian U-18), and NHL (2017 Draftee).