Pre-game preview: Game # -1, BOS vs. CBJ
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
Hockey is back! And we all hope it stays that way. If ever there was a need for sports escapism it's now. And while the exhibition matches started on Tuesday, diehards of the Spoked B are waiting anxiously to see their Bruins take the ice against an opposing team. Thursday at 7pm eastern time, they will get their wish! Let's not wait any longer and get into our pre-game preview!
TOP 3 STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR
1. What will the hockey be like? - While we received a taste of hockey in the matchups so far, for most Bruins fans it won't feel real until their team takes the ice. This definitely does not feel like your average exhibition game. The look, feel, and sounds will differ with no spectators, remote reporters, and adjusted camera angles. Wysh at ESPN has a full look at how NHL games will look and sound. Typically by this time of year, though a little bruised and battered, NHL teams are finely tuned machines. Expect the hockey to be a little sloppy with more errant passes, bobbled pucks, odd-man rushes, and defensive breakdowns post-layoff . Check out Brad Marchand's comments anticipating sloppy hockey and poor ice conditions.
2. David Pastrnak - Pasta has felt like the storyline for much of Phase 3 with his absence a large source of anxiety for Bruins fandom. Pastrnak addressed his absence as he finally returned to the ice in the team's Monday practice in Toronto. A player with a guaranteed spot in the line-up rarely is a story in an exhibition game but this is not a normal exhibition game nor is the reason for the team's leading scorer's absence one we are accustomed to hearing. It is hopefully one we do not get used to hearing either. There are doubts if Pastrnak will even play in the game. The Bruins are obviously impacted by Pasta's absence and a slow start may also be detrimental to their hopes of a long #bubblelife. It will be interesting to see how Bruce Cassidy manages this situation.
Pasta continued to make headlines this time on twitter, following up his chirp of Justin Bieber -
- with an interesting thread between the silky winger and Caps power forward Tom Wilson, perhaps the work of bubble pranksters, but priceless nonetheless.
And the reply...
Fluto Shinzawa has some theories on the origins of the tweet but regardless Pasta remains a focal point of the Bruins' restart.
3. 2nd and 3rd line auditions - Jack Studnicka is expected to play alongside David
Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. He slides into a spot most expected Ondrej Kase to occupy after GM Don Sweeney acquired him from Anaheim. The other acquisition in that trade, Nick Ritchie, has also been absent leaving a vacant wing spot for Anders Bjork to try and snag away from him flanking Charlie Coyle. Studnicka has impressed his teammates in camp and has received comparisons by his coach to a young Patrice Bergeron. These are great things but can the 21-year-old with the still lanky frame hang once the intensity cranks up? Bjork's placement on Coyle's wing is not as much of an experiment. Here is a quote from Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic on the partnership over the course of the past season:
Bjork, however, may have a bit more offensive pop [than Kuhlman]. He also has a history
with Coyle. They shared 383:31 of 5-on-5 ice time this year, according to Natural Stat
Trick. The numbers were good: 53.33 percent goals for share (16-14), 51.33 Corsi For
rating, 54.64 percent expected goals for share.
Writers at BlacknGold and NBC Sports Boston anticipate Bjork breaking out. A strong performance will likely push Ritchie down the lineup once he is healthy. Kase's spot seems in doubt as well. Karson Kuhlman seems to be the odd man out as Bruce Cassidy opted for players with more offensive upside.
4. Bonus Story: Bs locking arms - Sports and society are more or less intertwined depending on who you talk to. But there is no doubt the demonstrations for racial equality this spring have more than seeped into the sports world, be it NBA players adding social justice statements to their jerseys, players in MLB kneeling for the anthem, or MLS kneeling for a horn prior to kick-off. The NHL will also being having a pre-game moment prior to games affirming their support. NHL players, often the quiet bunch on issues and even their own play, have become more outspoken than in the past. I encourage you to read Jonathan Toews' statement as an example. Kneeling in the presence of the flag though is still taboo for many. On this topic, the Bruins announced they would link arms during the anthem in a show of "solidarity with the black community". You can view the full statement Stanley Cup of Chowder's analysis HERE.
Lineups are via Daily Face-off
(ed. note - note this have not yet been updated since 7/20 but is indicative of our plan's for pre-game previews moving forward)
The Bruins have on the on-paper advantage with the top-ranked forward line in 63-37-88. The 2nd and 3rd lines appear pretty even matchups while Columbus takes the edge on line 4. On the defensive pairings, CBJ boasts an elite pair in Werenski and Jones but top-to-bottom the Bruins D core grades out stronger. In between the pipes, CBJ has had success with two goalies unknown before the season including really strong play down the stretch. But the tandem of Rask and Halak maintain the advantage in performance as one of the league's best duos. Expect to see all 4 goalies make an appearance.
BY THE NUMBERS
Team Comparisons 5v5:
The Bruins were definitely the better team through the regular season. They had a better record and also better underlying numbers. Interesting to note is that CBJ is actually the higher-event team with more shot attempts, shots, and chances going both directions when they play a game. The Bruins though are more efficient with their chances, producing more high-danger chances and a better shooting percentage.
While the Bruins edge out the Jackets 5v5 they blow them away on special teams ranking 2nd in power-play percentage against the 12th ranked PK. `
Stats courtesy of NaturalStattrick
TACTICAL KEYS TO THE GAME
As this is just an exhibition game we will keep this one fairly short and broad. Both teams will likely not key into any specific matchups or game-plan specifically for their opponent.
However, the Blue Jackets are a staunch defensive team under New England native John Tortorella. While they are 20th in shot attempts given up, they are 6th in expected goals against and 3rd in high-danger chances against. The image below shows how well they protect their defensive "house".
Heatmap courtesy of HockeyViz
While they will let you play some offense they will limit the quality of the chances you get. The Bruins rank 28th in expected goals for at even strength and sometimes struggle to produce good offensive chances.
The Bruins need to find ways to generate offense. The B's will need to be effective in the counterattack the few times Columbus allows it. They will also need to get shots through from the point and get greasy in front of the net to try and create second-chance opportunities. Perhaps most of all, they must take advantage if and when the Jackets give them the man advantage.
HOCKEY IS BACK!!!!!! I'm with this kid, even if his parents made him be a Penguin fan.