Canadiens vs. Bruins: Game Preview, Start Time, and TV Schedule
With an early lead in the Atlantic division in mind, can the Canadiens take advantage of the holes in Boston’s lineup?
When the Habs began their 2016-17 season, they did so with a number of questions marks on the blue line. Is Shea Weber, with his mediocre puck possession record, fit to be a number one, shutdown defenceman? Is Nathan Beaulieu fit to be his partner? Will the Habs find themselves overly reliant on Andrei Markov again this year? And can Jeff Petry still be effective after much of last season was taken from him by injury?
We’re only four games in, and the Habs top-four are doing their best to put these concerns to rest, but even without considering their performance so far, Montreal fans can be grateful that the questions are mostly academic. The Tricolore are a playoff team, but what sort of playoff team are they?
In Boston, the defensive questions have much greater urgency.
How to Watch
Start Time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PDT
National: City (English), TVAS (French)
In the Bruins region: NESN
Stream: NHL GameCentre Live, Sportsnet Now
The Bruins missed the playoffs last year by the slimmest of margins, and the defensive play of last year’s B’s stood out as a glaring weakness. Neither of the the team’s two best defensive players actually played defence, but neither Patrice Bergeron nor Tuukka Rask could do enough to drag their team into the postseason.
Entering this season, the Bruins haven’t made much progress on that front. Zdeno Chara, one year older, remains the team’s number one defender. Paired with him in the early going is Brandon Carlo, a 19-year-old defenceman who the Bruins hope can translate his physical maturity and natural defensive style into reliable play on the top pair.
Behind them are Torey Krug, John-Michael Liles, Adam McQuaid, and Colin Miller, all members of the defensively woeful outfit from last season. Things can change from season to season, but exclusively from a personnel perspective, slotting a rookie into last season’s tire fire and expecting playoff-calibre defence doesn’t come across as sound thinking.
Of course, that’s not to say that things aren’t going all right so far. With three wins and one loss, the Bruins enter the game second only to the Habs atop the Atlantic division. Not surprisingly, Rask has played up to his usual level of excellence, allowing only two even strength goals in three outings so far. The Bruins will need him to maintain that high standard tonight and all season.
At the other end, Carey Price will get his second start of the year in the Canadiens’ net, following a successful outing against the Coyotes on Thursday. It’s been 377 days since Price lined up against the Bruins, but the feeling should be familiar. Carey has faced the Bruins 34 times in his career, more than any other opponent, and has beaten them exactly 22 times in the regular season.
If the Bruins wish to avoid chalking up victory #23 for Price, they’ll need their big guns to do the heavy lifting. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak should make for a dangerous first line, while Davids Krejci and Backes will seek to chip in from the second line. Hometown boy Frank Vatrano would have been a welcome bookend to the top six, but since he’s nursing a foot injury, the Bruins may run with former University of Denver stud Danton Heinen instead.
The bottom-six is a mix of veterans (Matt Beleskey, Dominic Moore) and relative youngsters (Ryan Spooner, Tim Schaller), and while their capacity for offence is yet to be determined, we can confirm that the Bruins are no longer prepared to offer anthropomorphic cactus Zac Rinaldo six minutes a night.
All in all, this is a Bruins team that is likely too flawed to make the playoffs, despite the presence of a few elite players in their lineup. And while the Habs may not yet be the well-oiled machine they envision becoming, the should have more than enough power to beat the Bruins in their own rink tonight.