Boston Bruins (24-9-1, 49 pts) @ Dallas Stars (20-15-1, 41 pts)
7:00 PM CT, December 31, 2011
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
New Year's Eve gets some early fireworks tonight as the Stars host the Boston Bruins, only the best team in the league. In recent years this matchup has provided fights fights and more fights, culminating in a game last year in Boston where there were three fights in the first three seconds of the game. I would seriously doubt that something like that would happen tonight though. I just don't see Gulutzan emphasizing that in his game plan.
Dallas is coming off a very disturbing 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, only the worst team in the league. I can only hope that the Stars looked past the Blue Jackets and had their minds on this game because if they didn't, I'm expecting the Bruins to win by a 10-1 score tonight.
Kari Lehtonen is back and played an alright game, but he has a major handicap because the team's top two defensemen, Sheldon Souray and Stephane Robidas are dealing with foot injuries that will probably keep them out another week/2 weeks. The more Adam Pardy that sees the ice, the worse this team gets.
About the Bruins:
There's pretty much only one thing that you need to say about the reigning Stanley Cup champions, they are hands down the best team in the NHL. The Blackhawks, Canucks and Rangers have more points than the Bruins, but they have played 4, 4 and 2 more games than Boston, respectively.
The Bruins boast the best defense in the league. They have only allowed 64 goals in 34 games this season. Only one other team in the NHL has allowed less than 77 goals, the Rangers, so yeah this defense is badass. Couple that with the 121 goals that they've scored, 4th best in the NHL and only 7 behind the league leader, and you have the team with far and away the best goal differential in the league at +57. 2nd best? The Canucks and Red Wings at +36.
Regardless of who is in goal for the Bruins tonight, you can expect a solid performance. Everyone knows about how good Tim Thomas is (16-5-0, 1.84 GAA, .943 SV %) but he hasn't even been the best goalie on the team stats wise. Backup goalie Tukka Rask is 8-4-1 on the season with a 1.61 GAA and a .945 SV %. He's played in 10 less games than Thomas and faces about 2 shots less per game. Rask could easily be the number one goalie for just about any team in the league.
The Bruins have been led offensively this year by their youngsters, specifically Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. Seguin leads the team in points (31) while Marchand leads the team in goals (15) and is one point behind Seguin. This team goes much deeper than that though. Boston has nine players with at least 20 points (the Stars have 4) and gets major contributions from every line.
Kari Lehtonen gets the start tonight for Dallas. They'll be without the services of Robidas (foot), Souray (ankle) and Tomas Vincour (lower body). Brenden Morrow took a shot off his knee in the Blue Jackets game and his status for tonight is still up in the air but it looks like he'll be able to play.
Starting in goal for the Bruins is... well does it even matter? Regardless of who starts, though I expect it to be Thomas, scoring goals will be tough. They're going to be without only Marc Savard who is dealing with post-concussion syndromes and won't be back this season.
- The Bruins are 11-3-0 on the road this year. Dallas is 11-6-1 at home.
- Boston has won 7 in a row and 9 of the 11 games they've played this month. They allowed more than 2 goals only once this month.
- The Bruins have allowed only one power-play goal this month. They've killed 39 of 40 powerplays.
- Since the beginning of November, Boston has only lost 3 games (3!!!). One of those was a shootout loss. Their record since the start of November is 21-2-1. They might have forgotten what a loss feels like.
- Stars haven't beat Boston in four years so just about everything going against Dallas in this game.