Bruins Focus: Canadiens, Blues Await As Boston’s All-Star Bye Week Looms

The Boston Bruins look to continue their winning ways of 2019 with a four-game week that includes matchups against their main NHL rival and two other Atlantic Division opponents before the All-Star break.

Boston finished last week going 3-1-0 after victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild, improved the team to 5-1-0 in January. The Bruins got some reinforcements back on their blue line with the return on Saturday of Charlie McAvoy, who was sidelined for the team’s previous seven contests with a foot injury.

Now the B’s shift their focus to the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers in what’s sure to be an entertaining stretch.

Let’s take a look to the four games the B’s have on ahead this week:

Monday, Jan. 14 vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. ET.
A clash of rivals kicks off the week when the Montreal Canadiens visit TD Garden. Boston sits just three points ahead of Montreal for third place in the Atlantic Division, so a win would for the B’s would create some breathing room in the standings.

Boston won its last two matchups against Montreal, upping its head-to-head record to 2-1-0 this season. Since the Canadiens’ 4-0 loss to the B’s on Dec. 17, the club has gone 7-5-0 while the Bruins have compiled an 8-3-0 record during that same stretch.

While the Habs have potted 26 goals in their last 12 games, they will be faced with the tough task of beating Tuukka Rask, if he gets the nod for Boston. The Bruins netminder has been stellar between the pipes, posting a 5-0-0 with a 1.40 GAA and .955 save percentage over his last five starts.

It won’t get much easier for the Canadiens if Jaroslav Halak gets the start. Halak shutout the Habs in the teams’ most recent meeting. when he stopped all 22 shots.

Wednesday, Jan. 16 vs. Philadelphia Flyers 7:30 p.m. ET
It’s been a dreadful season for the Flyers and it’s not about to get easier when they welcome the Bruins to Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia sits eighth in the Metropolitan Division and has lost nine of its last 10 games going into Monday’s matchup against the Minnesota Wild.

Boston had luck against Philly on Oct. 25, when the Black and Gold notched a 3-0 victory.

Three bright spots for the Flyers, have been Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Giroux has a team-high 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists), while Voracek is second in points with 36 (11 goals, 25 assists). Couturier has 34 points, but leads Philadelphia in goals with 16.

The Flyers also have started seven (!) goalies this season, which ties an NHL record. If the Bruins can continue to pepper the opposing goalies with shots (much like they did to Capitals’ Braden Holtby when they put 41 shots on him), they should have success.

Philadelphia has been abysmal on the power play (12.8 percent),  and the Bruins also have won five of their last six games against the Flyers.

Thursday, Jan. 17 vs. St. Louis Blues, 7 p.m. ET
The Blues may be sixth in the Central Division, but they’ve started off 2019 with a 4-2-0 record and look to make it three consecutive victories when St. Louis pays a visit to the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on Monday.

The Blues and Bruins haven’t met since last February, when Boston claimed a 3-1 victory at home. But Boston has struggled to win consecutive home games against St. Louis, and hasn’t done so since 1989.

Boston will need to contain Vladimir Tarasenko, who has four points in the Blues’ last five games, including a two-goal performance against the Dallas Stars. The B’s power play will need to be especially wary of Oskar Sundqvist, who’s been one of St. Louis’ best penalty killers.

Saturday, Jan. 19 vs. New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
The Bruins close out their week with an Original Six matchup at TD Garden against the New York Rangers. Boston looks to turn around its luck against the Rangers after three straight home losses to New York.

The Rangers have lost four of their last five games, including a 7-5 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their defensemen have been plagued by injuries, with the most recent coming Saturday night, when Freddy Claesson was driven awkwardly into the boards. Head coach David Quinn said the injury “didn’t look good,” but didn’t have an official diagnosis.

New York has a fairly strong penalty kill (75.8 percent) and Boston killed off 17 consecutive penalties before its bout with Toronto in which it surrendered a power-play goal. So prepare for a battle when either team goes down a skater.

Thumbnail photo via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images

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