The Canucks look to get back in the win column tonight when they take on an old rival, the Boston Bruins, in the penultimate game of their six-game road trip.
We all knew at some point the Canucks' bizarre tactic of allowing their opponent to have open season on their netminders would come to haunt them. On Wednesday against the Rangers, it finally did. For the fourth straight outing Vancouver allowed 40-plus shots – a season-high 49 as a matter of fact – and despite never trailing in the contest, emerged at the wrong end of a 3-2 overtime decision. Tonight the Canucks not only have to watch out for shots during the game from their opponent – a Bruins team that is among the league-leaders in goals-per-game and shots-per-game – but also for shots between the whistle as well. The ill-will between the Canucks and Bruins generated from their Cup Final meeting nearly five years ago clearly has not subsided and the last time these teams met – a 4-0 Boston win back on December 5 – the game was marred by a spearing incident involving Brandon Prust and Brad Marchand.
The Canucks did not hold a practice yesterday but there are some line-up changes to be expected. Jake Virtanen, who was expected to play against the Rangers but was a surprise late scratch, will likely draw back in. Vancouver also signed and re-called Mike Zalewski from Utica (AHL) yesterday although it's uncertain if he will get into the line-up tonight. The official word on who gets the call between the pipes tonight will likely come after the game day skate. It's worth noting that Jacob Markstrom was in net for Vancouver's loss to the Bruins last month. Miller, meanwhile, has won his last two starts against the Bruins including his first and only game against them as a Canuck last season. Look for Tuukka Rask to get the call for the Bruins, who bring a three-game win streak into tonight's contest including most recently knocking off the Canadiens by a 4-1 score on Tuesday.
Puck drop at 4 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet 360, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Bruins looked like a dominant team back on December 5 when they made their lone visit of the season to Rogers Arena and walked away with a 4-0 victory. Of course, it hasn't been like that all season for them but lately they've been showing that domineering side once again. Boston brings a three-game win streak into tonight's tilt having out-scored their opponents by a combined 11-4 during that stretch. The Bruins boast one of the league's top offences – they average 3.00 goals per game – but this is still one of their best stretches of consistent production in a while. They've scored three-or-more goals in three straight games. From December 20 to January 13, the Bruins only managed to score three-or-more goals in a game in three out of 11 occasions. Boston's top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Brett Connolly has been particularly effective in recent outings. The trio has combined for six goals and seven points during the three-game win streak.
The top line isn't the trio that has been scoring for the Bruins. Other names that opposition defences have learned they can't ignore this season include newcomer Matt Beleskey, who is on pace to set a new career-high in points after coming over from Anaheim in the off-season, as well as 23-year-old centre Ryan Spooner, who sits tied for third on team scoring. Spooner has been asked to fill an ever greater role with David Krejci currently on the injured list and he has certainly stepped up. In the 10 games since Krejci has been out, Spooner has two goals and 11 points. The improved offence this season has been a welcome sight considering, for the second year in a row, the Bruins have seen their defensive statistics take a hit. Not by coincidence, also taking a hit are the the personal statistics for number one netminder Tuukka Rask in terms of goals against average and save percentage. That being said, Rask has shown signs of getting back to that elite status the Bruins expect of him over the last month and a half. In his last 17 outings, he's only allowed three-or-more goals on four occasions. Compare that to his first 16 games of the season when he allowed three-or-more goals on 11 occasions.
Keys to the Game
Revenge. It was only a little over a month ago that the Bruins rolled into Rogers Arena and humiliated the home team in a 4-0 win. The Canucks hopefully still have that fresh in their memories and will be keen on returning the favour tonight.
Jake is fired up. After sitting out two straight games, expect to see a feisty Jake Virtanen tonight. The timing is especially perfect in a game that ought to be quite physical. The Canucks will want to feed off the energy that Jake is sure to bring as well.
The right Marchand shows up. Ever since, and including, the 2011 Cup Final, it seems Brad Marchand has an impact every time the Canucks and Bruins clash. The Bruins want that impact tonight to be made on the scoresheet and not in activity that could land him, or his team, in hot water.
Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota
By the Numbers
Shot differential between the Canucks and their opponents after 4 games on this road trip (98 for, 177 against).
Win percentage for the Canucks against the Bruins since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final (4-2-0).
Win percentage for the Bruins this season when Brad Marchand scores a goal (11-1-2).
Points for Boston's Landon Ferraro (1-1-2) against the Canucks on December 5, leading all players.
Shooting percentage for Sven Baertschi this season (8 goals on 47 shots), best on the team. He went 3 straight games with 0 shots until scoring on 1 of 3 against NYR.
Percent power play success rate for the Bruins on home ice, best in the league.