The Boston Bruins continue their historic NHL regular season with a trip to Bridgestone Arena on Friday to take on the struggling Nashville Predators.
|Boston Bruins @ Nashville Predators
|Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
|8:00pm, Thursday 16th February
|How to watch
|SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, BSSO, NESN
|Boston Bruins -170, Nashville Predators +150
Boston won the first of a two-game road trip 3-2 over the Dallas Stars which was their 40th victory of the season (40-8-5), making them the first team to reach the milestone this season, while also tying the NHL record for fewest games (53) to hit the mark (Washington Capitals, 2015/16).
Summing up their season so far, the Predators were beaten last time out at Bridgestone Arena 4-2 by the lowly Arizona Coyotes.
The win for Arizona was their first on the road in 19 games and further damaged Nashville’s fading Stanley Cup playoff hopes.
The Predators are fifth in the Central Division with a 25-20-6 record and currently five points behind a second Wild Card spot into the playoffs from the Western Conference.
Boston’s latest record comes on top of already being the quickest ever team to reach 80 points, doing so in 47 games which beat the previous record of 49 set by the 1943/44 Montreal Canadiens and the 1979/80 Philadelphia Flyers.
The Bruins also began the season with a record 14 game winning run at home and they are on pace to finish the season as one of, if not the best regular season team ever.
Boston currently has a .802-win percentage, which only six teams have ended the season with previously.
They are seven points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and are -500 to win the Presidents’ trophy and earn home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
While the regular season has been a major success for the Bruins, they know that to deliver on their +500 odds of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2011, they can’t rest on their laurels.
Since the 2005 lockout, only two teams have won both the Presidents’ Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same year.
The last team to win the Stanley Cup, having won the Presidents’ Trophy, was the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks.
There has been much talk about a re-build in Nashville for some time, but consistent playoff appearances have halted that and meant long-time General Manager David Poile has continued the pursuit to bring the franchise its first Stanley Cup.
Losing in the Final in 2017 is the closest that Nashville has come, and in the summer they thought they had improved their chances this season by bringing in two-time winner with Tampa Bay Lightning Ryan McDonagh and productive forward Nino Niederreiter from Carolina Hurricanes.
Instead, though, the Predators have gone backwards and Poile has admitted that if results and the mathematics for them to reach the playoffs don’t improve quickly, then they may be sellers at the upcoming trade deadline.
For that to happen, Nashville need to figure out their inconsistency and notably their offence which has been a constant struggle all season long.
Currently the Predators are averaging 2.75 goals per game which ranks 26th in the league and their 16.5% powerplay is an even worse 29th.
Defensively, and helped by a strong goalie tandem of Juuse Saros (.919 save percentage) and Kevin Lankinen (.920) the Predators have performed admirably defensively, conceding an average of 2.94 goals per game (14th) but their problems at the opposite end continue to hamper them.
The Bruins have had no such issues at either end of the ice, and will be a tough team for the Predators to try and contain.
Boston have scored the third most goals in the league (3.66) and conceded the least (2.11).
They have the best penalty kill (85.9%) and although it has slipped in recent weeks, have a more than dangerous powerplay, successfully converting on 24.2% of their chances which ranks seventh.
Czech winger David Pastrnak is Boston’s leading force sitting second in the league for goals with 39 and fifth for points with 74.
The All-Star winger is 16/1 to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player.
At the opposite end, goalie Linus Ullmark is 4/7 to win the Vezina Trophy as goalie of the year and he leads the league with 27 wins, a .937 save percentage and 1.90 goals against average.
Nashville’s task is likely to be made all the harder with top-scoring forward Filip Forsberg day-to-day with an upper body injury.
The Swede and Matt Duchene are the only Predator forwards with more than 40 points. Boston have three but also nine other players on more than 30 points while the Predators have just three.
Roman Josi remains a game changer for Nashville though, contributing 13 goals and 31 assists from the blue-line and if he plays to his best, he often gives the home side a chance.
The Predators are 14-9-3 at home while the Bruins are 18-6-2 on the road.