The Blue Jackets will play host to the Boston Bruins tonight at Nationwide Arena, in the first matchup between the two teams this season. The Bruins are missing some key players, but remain one of the toughest teams in the league, with quality at every position. This will be a big test for the Jackets as they look to find footing early in the season.
The Bruins came into the season with every excuse to be a bad team this year. Most of the star talent from this team is a year older – many coming off of serious injuries last season and in the playoffs. They’re the fourth oldest team in the league based on average age, led by their captain Patrice Bergeron (37 years old), second line center David Krejci (36), and star winger Brad Marchand (34). Not to be forgotten is former Blue Jacket captain Nick Foligno (34); the average age on the Bruins roster: 28.91 years old.
On top of the aging core, the Bruins relieved one of the best coaches in the NHL in the offseason, Bruce Cassidy. He’s replaced by former Dallas Stars bench boss Jim Montgomery, who has his first head coaching job in the NHL since being fired in 2020 (side note: great to see Jim back in the NHL, after finding his way through his personal troubles).
All of this adds up to a team that should probably be looking to accumulate draft picks and prospects to kick-start a rebuild. Instead, the Bruins opt to run it back one more year, and in spite of only having Marchand for one game (last night), and it seems to be a smart decision early on. They sit atop the NHL standings with 14 points, and a 7-1-0 record.
They’re doing it on the backs of a stingy defense (averaging 2.62 goals against per game), and the top scoring offense in the league (35 goals for). They lean heavily on star winger David Pastrnak to generate offense (6 goals, 15 points), but have found scoring depth under Montgomery. This is still a dangerous team that should give the young Jackets a tough, experienced test.
The Blue Jackets are polar opposites of the Bruins. They will ice one of the youngest rosters in the NHL tonight – made even younger should 2022 first rounder David Jiricek make his debut. They’ve given up 33 goals already (4.125 per game), but have been scoring consistently as well, averaging just more than 3 goals for per game. Read: David Jiricek Brings Hope to Struggling Blue Jackets
With plenty of hope from the fanbase for a playoff run this season, the club has fallen on its face a few times already in the early going, and sits with a 3-5-0 record and 8 points. Bringing their goals against down is vital – they’ve proven they can score, now they need to prove they can defend consistently, and get more out of their goaltenders.
Expected to debut tonight are defensemen Jiricek and Gavin Bayreuther, inserting for injured Adam Boqvist and Jake Bean (healthy scratch?). Up front, it looks like Liam Foudy will get the nod over Mathieu Olivier, with hopes of sparking a speedier, more skilled fourth line. Elvis Merzlikins will get the nod in goal, with Daniil Tarasov serving as his backup.
Tonight’s matchup should be a fun one, as the Bruins always bring a physical team, and the Blue Jackets are no longer icing a roster devoid of physicality. It seems like there’s always controversy when these two teams play; the Bruins like to walk right on the edge of chaos. We’ll just have to hope that the Jackets show up and give the Bruins a tough test.
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