Will we see a marquee matchup tonight?
The reigning Hart Trophy and Art Ross winner, Connor McDavid, versus the best defensive forward in the NHL, Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron has won the Frank Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) in four of the last six seasons. He finished second in 2016 to Anze Kopitar and was second by ten total votes to Jonathon Toews in 2013. He is the premiere defensive forward in the game, while McDavid is arguably the most dynamic offensive player.
Tonight will be the fourth time they play each other, but they’ve only really gone head-to-head in two of the previous three meetings.
Last March in Edmonton, the Oilers defeated the Bruins 7-4 and McDavid had three assists, but he only played 1:25 at 5×5 against Bergeron.
In the other two games, both in Boston, Bergeron and McDavid played a total of 19:03 at 5×5 against each other.
Fenwick For was 17-14 in favour of Bergeron.
The shots for-against was 14-12 in favour of McDavid.
And goals for-against was 3-0 for McDavid.
Early on in this battle of elite scorer versus elite defensive forward, McDavid is ahead.
Last season in Edmonton, Bergeron and his linemates, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, didn’t get a chance to battle McDavid, and I wonder if Bruce Cassidy will work hard for that matchup or have David Krejci’s line go out against them like they did last season in Edmonton.
It won’t just be Bergeron tasked with shutting McDavid down. The defence pairings will also play a major role, but the Bruins haven’t had much success containing him.
In McDavid’s two games in Boston, Zdeno Chara faced him almost exclusively. Chara played 25:29 at 5×5 against McDavid, but McDavid had the advantage in FF (20-16) in shots for/against (18-12) and in goals for/against (3-0).
In their only meeting in Edmonton, the Bruins didn’t bother trying to match defence pairings. The Krejci line faced McDavid almost every shift, but on defence, Chara faced him 5:34, his partner Brandon Carlo was at 4:45, while the Kevan Miller/Colin Miller pairing faced him 4:19 and the third pairing of Torey Krug (3:31) and Adam McQuaid (1:59) also saw time against McDavid. The Oilers won 7-4.
The Oilers are 3-0 versus the Bruins with McDavid in the lineup, and he’s produced seven assists in three games. Will Bergeron and company be able to contain him tonight?
“He has looked a bit tired lately. Carrying around that large frame of his, so we have monitored his minutes, and we want to take a short look with him on his off-wing,” McLellan said regarding Jesse Puljujarvi. Puljujarvi hasn’t been as effective as he was earlier in the year, and this isn’t a massive shock. Many young players have peaks and valleys early in their career. The interesting thing is outside of playing with McDavid, the best chance to score lately has come playing on the fourth line with Letestu and Kassian. Kassian has three goals in nine games, while Slepyshev has two in six. Only Caggiula, McDavid and Draisailt have scored more goals recently.
And until next Monday’s trade deadline, I can understand playing Cammalleri more with the hope, albeit slim, they can snare a fifth round pick for him.
The Bruins acquired St. Albert-born Nick Holden from the Rangers this morning in exchange for a third round pick in 2018 and Rob O’Gara, a fifth rounder from 2011 who is in his second year in AHL and has played 11 NHL games. Holden is a good depth addition for the Bruins. He has been playing top minutes with the Rangers, but he isn’t a first pairing defender. He will help their depth on the left side. He will likely take over for Grzelcyk in their third pairing.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hard to go against the Bruins, who are 5-3-2 in the second game of back-to-backs, combined with the Oilers home struggles. Everything says Bruins should win, but I’ll go against the grain and pick an upset. Oilers win 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Patrick Maroon has seven goals in eight career games versus Boston. That is as many as McDavid, Draisaitl, Lucic, Strome, Caggiula, Letestu, Kassian and Khaira have scored in a combined 52 games. With rumours circling the Bruins have interest in Maroon, he continues his hot-streak against them and scores another goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Boston is one of four NHL teams (not including the Oilers for the smart asses out there) McDavid hasn’t scored a goal against in his career. He has seven assists in three games versus the Bruins, but picks up his first goal against Beantown. And the Oilers score first for only the 21st time this season.
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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 2/20/2018 – 1:00pm MST