The Nashville Predators have had their offensive challenges at times this season, so can they break through tonight against the top defensive team in the NHL?
|Boston Bruins||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||29.6||14th||29.2||16th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||27.5||11th||28.2||12th|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.939||6th||.912||26th|
|# of PP's/Gm||2.69||30th||3.17||25th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.25||12th||3.28||14th|
Stingy defense is the name of Boston's game, as it has been for quite some time now. While not among the league's leading offenses, they do score at a decent enough clip to enjoy a +25 Goal Differential, among the best in the NHL.
There's something about being the biggest in the game that lends a sense of intimidation and impressiveness to an athlete, and Zdeno Chara fits the bill perfectly, much like baseball pitcher Randy Johnson, basketball pioneer George Mikan, and of course, the late great 8th Wonder of the World, Andre the Giant.
Following in their gigantic footsteps, Chara has established himself as one of the greatest all-around defensemen in NHL history, combining the hardest slap shot in the world with stifling defensive play and a punishing physical presence.
Hockey stars are usually forwards, but Chara is one of a handful of NHL defensemen who are worth the price of admission all by themselves.
|2013 - Zdeno Chara||36||9||7||16||+2||25||6||0||3||83||10.8|
With an impressive 16-5-1 record in their last 22 games, the Bruins are operating at peak efficiency these days, and could pull away from the pack in the Atlantic Division by the time the league breaks for the Olympics.
Per the Boston Globe, here's the lineup that ran in practice yesterday in preparation for tonight's game:
The Preds have been trying to find their competitive foundation by defending home ice, but with an 8-7-3 record at Bridgestone Arena, that's easier said than done. Key to those efforts will be the play of the team's leading stars, and right now none is producing better than the team's leading goal scorer Shea Weber, who has two goals and five assists in his last five games.
|2013 - Shea Weber||26||7||5||12||-7||20||5||0||1||55||12.2|
Sometimes it's hard for a defenseman to get his deserved recognition when playing for a team that's struggling in the standings, but Weber is probably playing as well today as he has in the last few seasons.
After taking a puck to the face late in the 1st period against Montreal, the hope is that rookie defenseman Seth Jones is able to get back in action - after all, Boston rookie Torey Krug is making noise in the Calder Trophy race, so tonight represents a chance to compare these two baby blueliners against each other.
The other question of significance will be who gets the start in goal, and after playing well in relief of Marek Mazanec Saturday night, Carter Hutton may well be the man of the moment. No matter who gets the start, they'll have a tall task competing against Boston's likely starter Tuukka Rask, who ranks among the NHL's best in several of the main statistical categories.
The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena, or Fox Sports TN if you can't make it. Make sure to check back later for the Game Thread!
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