What to Watch For: Pens vs. Bruins
Monday, 04.02.2012 / 6:31 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
WHEN: April 3, 2012 - 7:30 pm | WHERE: TD Garden
WATCH: ROOT SPORTS | LISTEN: Penguins Radio 24/7, 105.9 FM
The Bruins have rediscovered their game after experiencing a midseason slump, winning five of their last six and going 7-1-1 in their last nine contests. And with their 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Sunday, the defending Stanley Cup champions clinched both the Northeast Division and second place in the Eastern Conference.
Boston’s offense ranks third in the NHL behind Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and it spreads its scoring spread throughout their entire lineup. Head coach Claude Julien has been tinkering with his line combinations the last few games in order to find the right mix for the playoffs, but one trio he’s opted to leave together the last couple of contests is Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin.
Each player had a big night on Saturday against the Islanders, with Marchand and Seguin producing identical three-point nights (1G-2A) and Bergeron adding a goal and an assist. Then on Sunday against the Rangers, Bergeron scored the game-winning goal while his linemates recorded assists in the game. Overall, Marchand has two goals and three assists and Seguin has a goal and four assists in their last five games.
Julien has left the duo of Milan Lucic and David Krejci together, choosing to rotate the right wing of that line. He tried Seguin for a short while before going with Rich Peverley and now Jordan Caron. Krejci is hot again, recording three goals and six points in his last four games and 18 points in his last 17. Lucic has just one goal in his last 12 contests, but the big, bruising winger has gotten three assists in his last three games.
Despite their recent lull, the Bruins are still one of the league’s strongest teams on both ends of the ice, as evidenced by their NHL-leading plus-66 goal differential. Their defensive efforts are led by towering defenseman Zdeno Chara, who was named the NHL’s Second Star of the week thanks in part to the five-game point streak (1G-7A) he brings into Tuesday’s game.
Tim Thomas has been shouldering the workload between the pipes heading into the playoffs as talented goalie partner Tuukka Rask rehabs from an abdominal/groin injury. But tonight the Pens will be facing Marty Turco in goal.
BRUINS: PATRICE BERGERON
Bergeron scored the game-winner in a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Sunday, his second goal in as many games after being held scoreless in his previous 17 contests. But while Bergeron, who ranks second in team scoring with 61 points, seems to be heating up at just the right time, his value to this club stretches way beyond offense. Bergeron is a faceoff whiz, with his 59.5-percent success rate ranking third in the league. He won an eye-popping 17 of 19 faceoffs (89.5 percent) on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, and hasn’t dipped below 63 percent in any of his last five games. He’s also proficient on both the power play and penalty kill, and his plus-36 rating leads the NHL. Bergeron’s name might not be plastered all over the scoresheet come Tuesday, but he’ll make his presence felt in other ways.
PENGUINS: JORDAN STAAL
Staal continues to produce offense at a steady clip, averaging a point per game with 25 points (10G-15A) in 25 games since returning from injury on Feb. 11. But while Staal has matured into an offensive force this year, he remains one of the Penguins’ best shutdown forwards – and they’ll need him to do his part on both ends of the ice, especially defensively, to contain the dangerous Bruins. Staal has been good off the draw recently, winning 55 percent or more of his faceoffs in four of his last six games, and that success rate will need to continue against the NHL’s best team in that area. Head coach Dan Bylsma alluded to the intricacies of the matchups between these teams after practice Monday, wondering aloud who the Bruins would try to pair up against. While Boston’s game plan is uncertain, Staal will certainly be going up against the Bruins’ best.
Prior to Pittsburgh’s 5-2 victory against Boston on March 11 at CONSOL Energy Center, the visiting team had won seven straight games in the series (Penguins went 4-0 in Boston; the Bruins were 3-0 in Pittsburgh). The Bruins' last home win over Pittsburgh was a 3-0 victory on Nov. 10, 2009.
With a win Tuesday, the Penguins will equal their longest consecutive winning streak in Boston. The Penguins previously won five straight games in Boston from Mar. 27, 1993-Mar. 4, 1995.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury enters Tuesday's game with a 5-1-1 record, 1.94 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in eight career appearances at TD Garden. That includes a current four-game winning streak, during which he has allowed just a total of five goals in 242 minutes (1.24 GAA) and has stopped 118-of-123 shots (.959 SVP).
Evgeni Malkin enters Tuesday’s game riding a five-game point streak (3G-6A) and with at least one point in 11 of his last 12 contests, during which he has collected 10 goals and 23 points for an average of 1.92 points per game. Malkin has had two-plus points in eight of the 12 games. Last Friday against Buffalo, Malkin scored his career-best 48th goal of the season – one more than his previous high of 47, which he established in 2007-08.
Pascal Dupuis collected a pair of assists against Philadelphia to stretch his NHL-season-high point streak to 14 games. Over the last two seasons, only teammate Sidney Crosby (25 games) has posted a longer scoring streak among NHL players. Going back three years, Dupuis’ point streak is the NHL’s sixth-longest. With a point tonight, Dupuis will tie teammate Evgeni Malkin (15 games; Jan. 16- Mar. 4, 2010) for the fifth-longest streak on that list.
Dupuis has notched 19 points (9G-10A) during his streak. Dupuis is in the midst of a career year this season, establishing career highs in goals (24), assists (32), points (56), and game-winning goals (8).
A win Tuesday by the Penguins would give them 49 wins this season – tied for the second-highest single-season total in franchise history (2010-11; 1995-96).
D Ben Lovejoy, knee (4)
F Gregory Campbell, lower body (1)
F Nathan Horton, concussion (33)
D Adam McQuaid, eye laceration (2)
G Tuukka Rask, lower abdominal/groin strain (16)
Author: Michelle Crechiolo