The NHL opens up the new season with one of the NHL’s greatest new traditions, the Winter Classic. Three games will be on the board for Tuesday, including the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks matchup in the Winter Classic. This game will be on at 1:00 PM Eastern time on NBC.
The Bruins have started out the season with a record of 21-14-4. Boston is currently sitting in fourth place of the Atlantic Division. The Bruins won their last game in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres. That win helped end a two-game losing streak for Boston. The Bruins will look to get a little bit of a streak going with a win in Tuesday morning’s game.
Chicago has struggled hard this season. The Blackhawks have gone 15-20-6 to open up the season, which has them in sixth place of the Central Division. Chicago is coming off strong back to back wins against the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche. The Blackhawks will look to earn a three-game winning streak with a win in the Winter Classic.
Tuesday morning’s matchup will be the first of two games between the Bruins and the Blackhawks. These two teams will meet in Boston on February 12. While the Bruins are off to a strong start to the season and Chicago has struggled, Winter Classic games tend to be close. I believe that the outdoor conditions and somewhat neutral playing field could help lead to a close game.
Last Season’s Matchups
Last season, Boston and Chicago met up twice. The Bruins hosted the first matchup of the season. Erik Gustafsson had a goal and two assists for the Blackhawks, but it was not enough. Jake Debrusk had three assists for Boston. David Krejci had two goals, while Brian Gionta and Sean Kuraly each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins. Boston was able to dominate with a 7-4 win at home.
Chicago hosted the second and final matchup of the season series last season. Zdeno Chara scored the lone goal for the Bruins. Jonathan Toews had three assists, while Patrick Kane scored a goal and an assist. Anton Forsberg had a solid night, turning away 31 of 32 shots. The Blackhawks were able to pull off a 3-1 win at home.
These two teams split the season series last season. Boston went on to make a solid playoff run, while the Blackhawks missed the playoffs entirely. These two teams still both tied up the season series even though they finished up on opposite sides of the standings. I believe that these two teams could play another tight matchup on Tuesday morning.
The Bruins have had some issues with injuries this season, but nothing to give them a major setback. Patrice Bergeron missed a chunk of the season, but he is now back and playing well. Boston could be without Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy for the Winter Classic matchup against Chicago.
Chicago has been hit pretty hard with injuries this season. The Blackhawks are without Marcus Kruger and Brandon Davidson for Tuesday morning’s matchup. Chicago could also be missing Jason Garrison on the back end. The biggest injury for the Blackhawks is Corey Crawford though. Crawford has been hit with another concussion and he could be out for the season. His absence in net has been felt in Chicago.
I believe that the Blackhawks have been hit much harder with injuries for the Winter Classic. Missing Crawford hurts in multiple ways. He is not only a huge leader for Chicago, but his solid goaltending is an important piece of consistency in the lineup. The Bruins could be hurting pretty big though if they are missing both Marchand and McAvoy, who both have important starting roles in Boston’s lineup.
Tuukka Rask will likely get the start in net for Boston on Tuesday morning. Rask has put up a record of 9-8-2 in his 19 starts this season. He has a save percentage of .912 and a 2.67 GAA this season, which is not as solid as Halak’s numbers. Rask has not been playing really well over the last couple seasons, but he will look to put up a memorable performance on Tuesday morning.
I believe that Cam Ward will get the start in net for the Blackhawks. Ward has posted a .886 save percentage and a GAA of 3.90. He has a record of 6-6-4 to this point in the season. Ward has not had the best defense in front of him, which has not helped his poor numbers. In front of a huge crowd and many more fans watching, Ward will look to help turn around his poor numbers with a good game against the Bruins.
Boston has a clear advantage in net, but I believe that Ward could rise to the occasion. Ward has always been a strong goalie in the spotlight and he will look to do it again. Winter Classic games have been high scoring affairs in the past, which could lead to both goalies not having great games in net.
Boston has been the better team this season, but I expect a tight matchup on Tuesday. The Blackhawks have been playing well recently, while the Bruins have struggled a bit in their last few games. Chicago will look to use this to their advantage. These two teams split the season series last season and I believe that the Blackhawks will need to win on Tuesday if they want to split it this season.
BetOnline has the Bruins listed as a -140 against the money line. This implies that Boston will win this game 58 percent of the time. The Winter Classic games have been high scoring at times in the past, which is up the Blackhawks alley. I believe that this game could go either way, which means Chicago has a lot of value. I am taking the Blackhawks as underdogs on Tuesday.