On Friday morning, the Boston Bruins go head-to-head with the Colorado Avalanche in an NHL top-team confrontation.
The Boston Bruins have bolstered their leadership position in the overall NHL ranking by defeating New Jersey 3:0, extending their points streak that began on January 6th. In that game, Charlie Coyle, David Pastrnak, and Trent Frederic scored goals while goaltender Jeremy Swayman made 31 saves, achieving his third shutout of the season and the 12th of his career. Swayman, who tops the stats with 93.7% of shots deflected, could continue as the goalie despite Linus Ullmark's return to training. Coyle, who's been performing well, has scored 5 goals and has 11 points in the 11 games following the festive break. In the current season, the Boston Bruins sit on top of the Atlantic division, even though they've had a rocky start to 2024, losing 3 out of their last 5 games.
The team averages 3.3 goals per game and capitalises on 27.1% power-play opportunities. Pastrnak leads the team with 26 goals, while Charlie McAvoy gave away 23 assists. The Bruins' road trip continues with meetings in Colorado and Arizona, where they suffered two 3:4 defeats. These defeats are part of the team's recent slump, as the Bruins, after a successful start to the season with a 17-4-3 record, have only clinched 9 of the last 19 games. However, they're consistent in their defensive line, ranking third in the league for their defensive performance.
On the other side of the rink, the Colorado Avalanche are showcasing impressive form, having clinched 8 victories out of their last 10 matches, beating teams such as Vegas, Toronto, and Ottawa. Noteworthy was a victory against Boston in a shootout series with a score of 4:3, marking the start of a winning streak in 4 out of 5 games since January 9th. In that game, Jason Polin scored his first NHL goal, and goaltender Justus Annunen saved 36 shots in his debut season. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen were key players during this period, with MacKinnon accruing 49 points and Rantanen scoring two goals against Ottawa.
The Avalanche are also doing well in overtime, securing wins against the Islanders, Dallas, and Boston. The team's second-best scorer with 22 goals, Valeri Nichushkin, is temporarily benched due to his participation in the NHL Player Assistance Program. Despite this setback, he has previously shown exceptional skill with 20 goals and 20 assists. Nevertheless, the inconsistent results from the Russian goalies Georgiev and Prosvetov have been balanced by the team's outstanding offensive strength.
In this regular season game on January 9, 2024, Colorado emerged victorious against Boston with a score of 4:3 in overtime. This was a rematch following December 8, 2022, when Boston showed their dominance by winning with a score of 4:0. Worth noting is that in the games held on December 4 and February 21, 2022, Boston decisively defeated Colorado both times with a scoreline of 5:1, emphasising their dominance in these encounters.
Nichushkin's unexpected sidelining has been a disappointment to Avalanche fans, but their 8 wins in the last 10 games are heartening. Meanwhile, Boston has squandered their advantages in the East and now only lead the runner-up Rangers by 3 points. In contrast, Colorado, thanks to the amazing play of MacKinnon and Rantanen, is only 1 point behind leading Winnipeg. My instinct is a Colorado win and anticapting Nichushkin's return. The league has confirmed that his issue is not related to drugs or alcohol.