The Boston Bruins have won six of their seven games since returning from the NHL’s holiday break and will look to keep the good vibes rolling as they play host to the fading Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. The Flyers, on the other hand, have lost five games in a row and haven’t scored more than three goals in a game in nearly a month.
Boston is coming off an easy 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Wednesday night. Brad Marchand scored twice in the first period and finished up his hat trick with a shorthanded goal in the second period. Curtis Lazar added two goals of his own and Linus Ullmark saved 24 of the 25 shots he faced.
The Flyers were supposed to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, but that game was postponed due to COVID issues, so the last time Philadelphia was on the ice was for an overtime loss against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. The Flyers blew a 2-0 lead in the third period as Tomas Hertl scored twice to force overtime before knocking in the game-winner at the start of the extra period against former Shark Martin Jones.
Game: Philadelphia Flyers (13-15-7; 33 points) at Boston Bruins (20-11-2; 42 points)
Location: TD Garden
Day/Time: Thursday, J7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins
Marchand on Fire
Marchand is always near the top of the scoring leaderboards in the NHL, but he is on another plane right now. With his hat trick against Montreal, he has multiple goals in each of his last three games — seven in total — and has five or more shots on goals in each of his last six contests. Two of those games were against top Eastern Conference competition in Tampa Bay and Washington.
Marchand is a one-man wrecking crew for the Bruins. Even though he has missed some time due to a suspension, he’s still tied for ninth in the NHL in points (in just 28 games) and tied for eighth in goals. There isn’t really any good way to stop him at the moment. This week, Washington Capitals’ Nic Dowd tried to slow him down with a brutal high-sticking penalty that bloodied Marchand’s nose, only for him to respond with a goal later in the game.
It doesn’t help the Flyers that they’ve allowed the third-most shots on goal in the NHL, which kind of puts their goaltenders behind the eight-ball. That’s not a good formula for success against a Bruins team that has the seventh-most shots on goal despite playing fewer games than most teams.
Flyers Unsure Who to Trust in Goal
Carter Hart is still Philadelphia’s starter in net and he has been solid overall (2.92 goals-against average and .912 save percentage) but he gave up nine goals in his last two starts and didn’t get the start for Saturday’s loss to San Jose.
His backup, Jones, has a similar save percentage (.909) with a much worse goals-against average (3.33). However, he was in net for the Flyers’ last two wins and is actually 3-1-1 in his last five starts while Hart is 0-2-1 in his last three.
It’s not exactly a goalie controversy, per se, yet it’s still up in the air who’s going to get the nod on Thursday night. The Flyers are rested so fatigue shouldn’t be a factor. Hart is probably the likely starter, but interim coach Mike Yeo could go with the relatively hot hand in Jones with his team desperately needing to stop its skid.
Rask to Make Return to Boston Crease
If you’re betting online, another point to consider in Boston’s favor is the emotional edge the Bruins might have with beloved goalie Tuukka Rask making his season debut. Rask, Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron are the only current members of the Bruins who were on the 2011 Stanley Cup team, so it’s sure to be an emotionally charged night when Rask suits up for the first time since the playoffs.
He had offseason surgery to deal with a torn hip labrum and remained a free agent until the Bruins came calling again. Rask officially signed with the only NHL team he has ever played for.
Boston’s goaltending situation with Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman hasn’t been bad but a healthy Rask is an upgrade over Swayman and it never hurts to have someone with a ton of playoff experience between the bars.
Rask might be rusty to start his season but Boston should play with a ton of energy, which should be enough to push the Bruins to another big win.