|Connelly’s Top Ten – Patriots Stink but Exciting; Poor Gronk||Patriots Lose Gronk But Complete Miraculous Comeback to Beat Browns, 27-26||Rob Gronkowski Torn ACL?||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 14 (Playoffs)|
The playoff-bound Bruins (42-23-10) return home for another three-game homestand, that kicks off tonight when they skate with the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks (41-26-8) at TD Garden.
Boston officially punched their postseason ticket with their 2-1 win over East-leading Philadelphia Sunday night. For Boston, it was their third win in their last four games, a nice rebound from that tough 1-3-3 stretch. The B’s now qualify for their fourth straight postseason, the longest streak for the franchise since the Bruins notched 29 straight playoff appearances from 1967 through 1996.
As for Chicago, points haven’t come as easy for them this season as they did last season. The reigning Cup champs currently sit on the edge of the playoff picture in the West, manning the eighth and final playoff spot, three points ahead of Calgary (Chicago has two games in hand on the Flames). The middle of the Western Conference standings are very, very tight heading into the last two weeks of the regular season, with fourth place and eighth place separated by just three points.
Off we go with some pre-game notes to get you ready for tonight’s Original Six matchup down on Causeway Street:
Tonight is the one and only meeting between these two long-time rivals. Last season, the ‘Hawks topped Boston 5-2, back on January 7th of last year.
Chicago is coming off a thrilling 3-2 overtime win last night in the Motor City against Central Division leading Detroit. Former Red Wing Marian Hossa lit the lamp for the Blackhawks just 51 seconds into the extra time to earn the much-needed two points for Chicago. Like Boston, the Blackhawks are winners of three of their last four games as well.
The Bruins will face one of the league’s top power play units tonight, with the Blackhawks’ 24.2% mark good for second in the NHL. The B’s, who are in the middle of the NHL pack on the season for PP%, have turned it on as of late, scoring four power play goals in their last four games.
Chicago’s scoring is led by team captain Jonathan Toews (31G, 44A), followed by a pair of Patricks, Sharp (34G, 34A) and Kane (25G, 42A). Sharp has missed the last three games with a left knee injury and could be sidelined for the rest of the season. It’s very unlikely he suits up tonight for the Blackhawks.
Goaltending for Chicago is handled mainly by upstart rookie Corey Crawford (30-15-5, 2.27GAA). His backup is former Dallas Star standout, Marty Turco (11-11-3, 3.02GAA). With Crawford earning his 30th win of the year just last night in Detroit, it’s possible the B’s face Turco this evening.
On the flip side, Boston’s defensive corps has stepped it up over the last four games as well. The team has allowed just three goals in the last four games.
The Blackhawks are the last Western Conference opponent on the schedule for the Black and Gold this season, and the second-to-last opponent that currently occupies a playoff spot. The B’s, who have just six games remaining after tonight, host Toronto and Atlanta later this week, followed by a Monday night trip to the Big Apple to face the Rangers. They wrap up their home schedule with a pair of games against the lowly Islanders and Senators, before rounding out their regular season in New Jersey against the Devils.
A programming note for tonight: The puck will drop just after 7:30, not the normal 7:00 start time, and the TV broadcast will be found over on Versus instead of NESN. Enjoy your night off from Jack Edwards.