Two of the league’s first place teams will face off tonight in Edmonton, as the Boston Bruins (37-11-12) take on the Edmonton Oilers (32-21-6). It’s the second meeting between these clubs this season, with the Oilers taking the first matchup 4-1 back in early-January.
Here is a preview for tonight’s heavyweight matchup, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
There are few teams in the NHL right now who are hotter than the Bruins. Boston has won three games in a row, allowing one goal in each of them, and have won nine of their last 10 games overall. Their success is in large part derived from a top-10 offense, one that ranks seventh with 3.32 goals per game in 32.3 shots. In addition to a top-10 shooting percentage, Boston’s power play is second to only Edmonton, converting on 25.9 percent of their attempts.
Defensively, the Bruins’ 2.32 goals allowed is the fewest in the league. In addition to the eighth-fewest shots allowed of 30.2, the Bruins also have the league’s second-best penalty kill, squashing power plays 84.2 percent of the time.
Meanwhile, the Oilers have not only survived, but thrives without injured star Connor McDavid. In the four games McDavid has missed, Edmonton has won three of them, and now has won six of their last 10 overall. Even with one of the lowest shots on goal averages in the league at 29.8, the Oilers still manage to average 3.19 goals per game, the 10th-highest rate in the league. They have the NHL’s fourth-best shooting percentage and, as mentioned earlier, the league’s top power play at 29.5 percent.
Defense has improved significantly this season as well. Edmonton is an average 16th with both 3.07 goals allowed and 31.5 shots allowed. But their penalty kill is elite, ranking third at 84.1 percent, just a hair behind Boston.
Who to Watch
David Pastrnak has been a goal-scoring machine this season, and as a result he’ll be the player to watch tonight for Boston. Pastrnak is second to only Auston Matthews in goals with 42, and also has 40 assists to boot, making him one of only four players to hit the 80-point plateau. He had a hat trick last week against Montreal and added a goal the game after, so expect him to be a threat once again tonight.
In addition to Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy have stepped up in recent games. First Marchand, who leads the team with 51 assists, has five assists during his three-game point streak. As for McAvoy, after not scoring a goal for 51 games, the defenseman now has three goals and a couple assists in his last six games.
Without McDavid, Leon Draisaitl has continued to shine. The league-leader in points with 95, Draisaitl not only has a five-game point streak, but also a whopping 11 goals and 33 points in the 17 games in the calendar season. As he continues to build his growing lead in points, look for Draisaitl to keep Edmonton’s offense going against a great defensive team.
A few depth players, including Kailer Yamamoto and Josh Archibald, have stepped up recently as well. Yamamoto, in only 18 games, has nine goals and nine assists this year, including four goals in his last four games. Meanwhile Archibald, who has never scored more than 12 goals in a season, is up to nine now after scoring twice last weekend against the Hurricanes.
The Bruins are rolling with their star goalie Tuukka Rask. Rask is 22-5-6 with a 2.08 GAA and .931 save percentage.
Expect the Oilers to counter with veteran Mike Smith. Smith is 16-10-4 with a 2.93 GAA and .904 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
The combination of hot play and McDavid’s injury has given the Bruins the honor of being sizable favorites tonight, listed at -185 according to odds-makers. They are a strong 16-9-3 on the road, while the Oilers are 15-9-4 at home.
Tonight, I like the Bruins to keep rolling. The Oilers have been playing well, but most of those wins have come against inferior opponents. I think Boston’s elite special teams, defense and goaltending will be too much for and Edmonton group that is relying a lot on young players subbing into the lineup. Give me the Bruins -185 tonight.
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