The Boston Bruins are shaping up to be the type of team that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would be proud of.
TD Garden has been nothing but a house of horrors for the Black and Gold. Their 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night consigned the club to their fifth loss in six games on home ice (1-4-1). Old friend Tyler Seguin sunk the B’s with a hat trick in his third return to Boston since “the trade”.
Whatever momentum the Bruins gained with four straight wins and a 6-0-1 in their last seven crashed into a concrete wall thanks in large part to the second overall pick in 2010.
And just maybe the #Bruins have turned this season around! The team are now 5-0-0 on the road this season
— Eleanor Kennedy (@EllieKennedy94) November 1, 2015
However, they have looked like a Cup contender on the road. Boston is the only team in the NHL, almost a month into the season, that has an immaculate record away from Causeway Street (5-0-0). They’ve outscored their opponents 22-10 and have used their road trips to bring a sense of camaraderie among the group.
As a result, the Bruins have looked like a cohesive bunch that has notched impressive victories against the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, among others.
The next three games will be some of Boston’s toughest tests in the young season. Their upcoming road trip features visits to Washington, Montreal and New York; three of the East’s best teams. Can they preserve their perfection on the road?
The Curious Case Of Braden Holtby
The first order of business for the Bruins is a trip to the nation’s capital on Thursday night to face goaltender Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals.
The Saskatchewan native has been Boston’s kryptonite in his young career. He owns a career 7-2-0 mark against the Black and Gold with a 1.58 goals-against and .953 save percentage in nine career appearances. Holtby completely dominated the Bruins with three straight shutouts last season, enabling the Caps to sweep the season series.
In fact, the last Boston player to score against the 26-year old netminder was Patrice Bergeron at 13:17 of the third period back in March of 2014 in a 4-2 victory at Verizon Center. That’s 186:43 the B’s have gone without scoring against Washington, if you are counting.
Not exactly a formula for winning hockey games.
Of course, Holtby isn’t the only player who should concern the B’s. Washington’s offensive juggernaut, led by Alex Ovechkin’s six goals and young stud Evgeny Kuznetsov, is fourth in the league in goals/game (3.27).
Their power play is ninth in the league yet five of their seven goals have come on home ice. Six different players have a goal on the man advantage but surprisingly Ovechkin isn’t one of them.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Bruins’ defense matches up against one of the league’s elite forwards and a goaltender that seemingly owns them.
The Ghosts of the Bell Centre
Boston and Montreal on Hockey Night in Canada. Part deux.
This will be the marquee matchup of not just the road trip but possibly the month of November. The Bruins and Canadiens will face off for the first time at the Bell Centre this season after Montreal cruised to a 4-2 victory in Boston last month. Lars Eller scored two goals while Alex Galchenyuk added three assists in the Habs’ sixth straight victory over their Original Six rivals.
Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty and Dale Wiese lead the league’s most prolific offense (51 goals) with seven a piece. To put that in context, the same guy who still haunts the dreams of Milan Lucic has more goals this season than Taylor Hall, Vladimir Tarasenko, Steven Stamkos and Phil Kessel, among others.
As for Pacioretty, he’s been a Bruins killer in his career. The Connecticut native has 23 career points in 27 games against Boston including eight (four goals, four assists) in his last five.
It’s not all about the offense, though. Their defense has allowed just 1.86 goals/game, good for third in the League. The penalty kill is pretty good too. Montreal is the only NHL team this season that possesses a perfect penalty kill at home (20/20) and is fourth-best in the League overall (89.1%). Not to mention they have the best goaltender in the world in Carey Price, who is 22-8-3 in his 34 career appearances against Boston.
The Bruins have only generated nine goals in their past six games with the Canadiens while conceding 21. Can they find it in them to climb the mountain and exorcise the Bell Centre demons that have haunted them for years?
Battle at Barclays
Boston will close their three-game roadie with a late afternoon tilt against the Islanders. The Bruins made their maiden voyage to the Barclays center a memorable one with an impressive 5-3 victory on October 23.
Coach Jack Capuano has led the Isles to an impressive 7-3-3 start in the Metropolitan Division thanks in large part to their penalty kill. The league’s best shorthanded unit resides in Brooklyn, operating at a 90.9 percent clip (40/44). The offense is pretty darn good too, averaging almost three goals-per-game so far this year.
Even though captain John Tavares may not play, forwards like Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Anders Lee can cause problems for the Bruins’ defense. New York’s balanced attack is just more than Tavares as 16 of their 20 players who have seen ice time have scored at least a goal this season.
Luckily for the Bruins, they have had some success recently against the team formerly planted on Long Island. Boston has won three straight and four of their last six against the Islanders scoring almost four goals-per-game. On the second night of a back-to-back, how will the Black and Gold respond after playing in Montreal the night before?
To recap, Boston will have to play three teams who rank in the top-10 of the following: goals scored, goals allowed/game, power play and the penalty kill. Playing against three of the best power play units in four nights is bad news for the Bruins, who now own the League’s worst penalty kill (28/40, 70%).
Boston may be perfect on the road to begin their three-game trip but it will be a major challenge to keep it that way when they head home on Sunday night.
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