BOSTON - When you talk about the Bruins and the St. Louis Blues, you’re talking about two teams that are incredibly similar. Sure, the B’s 14-6-1 record wouldn’t even be good enough for a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference right now, but there are two big, physical, defensive-minded teams that are well-coached and pay close attention to the little details.
That should make it a fun matchup featuring the NHL’s top-ranked power play from St. Louis against the No. 2 ranked PK in Boston, and a couple of premier NHL players in Alex Steen and Alex Pietrangelo. Add the intense, hard-hitting David Backes to the mix along with former B’s forward Vladimir Sobotka, and the Bruins should be ready to throw a few hits and fisticuffs.
“We need to get more information on what we're about . Boston's probably one of five or six teams in the National League that plays right through you. It'll be a good test for us to see where we're at,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “Puck management is everything. They force mistakes. They make you play in uncomfortable areas.
“We've just got to go in there and compete. Both teams live in a little bit of fear of each other. We can do to them what they do to us. We play a little bit different style but we both, in my opinion, play the right way.”
The challenge for the Bruins will be summoning the proper energy for their third game in four nights, and their first home game after a three-game road trip that was largely successful with four out of six points.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: David Krejci has zero goals, one assist and just 10 shots on goal in his last 6 games after going no more than one game in a row without registering a point in the first month of the season. It’s no coincidence that Krejci’s offensive lull has coincided with his head getting slammed into the boards by Brandon Dubinsky during a win vs. the Blue Jackets.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “They’ve got a big, physical team with good defense, good goaltending and a very good power play, and they’re one of those teams that is off to a really good start in the West. It’s a good challenge for us.” –Chris Kelly, ready for the challenge that the big, physical Blues will be posing against a banged up Bruins team.
KEY MATCHUP: It will come down to the NHL’s second ranked PK in Boston (86.6 percent kill rate) matching heads with the NHL’s top-ranked power play unit (25.7 percent success rate) in St. Louis that could portend a special teams fiesta on the TD Garden ice. What’s amazing is that the Blues have such a good power play given that there are no real offensive “superstars” on the St. Louis team, but they do have some very good defensemen playing the point. The Bruins had their string of successful PK chances snapped against the Rangers, but they also produced a shorthanded goal from Daniel Paille
STAT TO WATCH: 10 – there is plenty of talk about Tuukka Rask’s workload, but there are an even 10 other goalies in the NHL that have played as many games (18) or more than the Bruins goalie this season.
INJURIES: St. Louis forward Patrik Berglund (upper body) won't play Thursday, but could return to the lineup over the weekend. Defenseman Jordan Leopold (finger) is on injured reserve.
Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid (hip/groin) and Dennis Seidenberg (lower body) are both out of the lineup for the Bruins.
GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Tuukka Rask will play his third game in four nights as he builds on the 12-5-1 record, 1.61 goals against average and .946 save percentage through 18 games this season. Rask has clearly taken on the lions share of the workload given his paycheck as one of the highest salaried goalies in the NHL, but he also has the quiet, economic style to play at that kind of pace.
Jaroslav Halak gets the start for the Blues, and is off to a solid start behind a very good defensive team with an 11-3-2 record, a 2.38 goals against average and a .903 save percentage this season. Halak and Brian Elliott have proven to be a superior goalie tandem for the Blues this season.