The Boston Bruins‘ game against the Florida Panthers today at 3 p.m. is the beginning of a long stretch of games played very close together–from here on in, there will only be one more two-day stretch without a game being played, and that won’t be until the end of March–and, in the words of Andrew Ference, he and his teammates are going to play the same amount of games in two months as the NFL does in more than two years combined.
Last season, the Bruins met the Panthers four times. In their first meeting at the start of the December, Boston was shut out 2-0. They came back on the day before Christmas Eve for a huge 8-0 victory, Boston prevailed in a January 2012 shootout and then there was a bad stretch in March that included a 6-2 loss.
A few Bruins who have been strong against the Panthers in past meetings include Patrice Bergeron (nine goals, 13 assists), Zdeno Chara (six goals, 17 assists) and Brad Marchand (five goals and two assists, including his first career hat trick back before Christmas 2011). Two former Panthers, Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton, haven’t been as impressive against their old club, but Horton did just put up two goals against the Lightning.
Keep an eye on Marchand, the team-leading goal scorer, as well as Tyler Seguin, who has points in the last three consecutive games. Marchand may look to extend his lead while Seguin could be searching for more of that goal-scoring he was so good at last season.
I’m always wary of mentioning Tuukka Rask‘s stats against teams considering that he often doesn’t have a most prolific record due to his history, but his numbers against Florida are pretty good: 4-1-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage. He will most likely get the start.
Boston wins a head-to-head comparison of Florida in a few different metrics, including record (10-2-2 compared to 5-8-4), their last 10 games played (7-2-1 compared to 3-3-4), penalty kill (league-leading 94.4 percent compared to 74.6) and faceoff wins (57.2 percent against 50.1 percent). The Bruins have 22 points in just 14 games played, too, while the Panthers hold 14 from 17 games played.
The Bruins are also well-rested before today’s match. Yesterday, they practiced and then headed over to the home of Jeremy Jacobs and his family for some fun and relaxation. There was fishing, basketball, fooling around on dirt bikes, golfing and other good times–a nice little time off, something that may be in short supply for the team from here until basically the end of the season.
Today’s game will be on NESN and NHL Network.