My red-hot stretch rolls on as we hit a winner last night between the Canadiens and Jets and we are officially back into profit territory after being down nearly nine units not too long ago.
The pick was never really in doubt, either, which is what we like. It wasn’t a blowout, but Montreal built 2-0 and 3-1 leads and while the Jets closed those gaps to 2-1 and 3-2, the Habs never trailed and led for nearly the entire game en route to a 4-2 final.
We’re not 7-1 over our last eight picks, so let’s look to keep rolling as we dive into this Bruins vs. Penguins NHL pick from Pittsburgh!
- Season Record: 25-24
- Units: +0.32
Bruins vs. Penguins Betting Odds
- Bruins (+105)
- Penguins (-116)
- Bruins +1.5 (-245)
- Penguins -1.5 (+205)
- Over 5.5 (-104)
- Under 5.5 (-106)
Bruins vs. Penguins NHL Pick Breakdown
The Bruins have dropped four of their last five games and while the stout defense we’re used to hasn’t exactly been there, offense is the main issue in Beantown.
The Bruins have scored one goal or less in all four of those losses over their last five games, including a 4-1 defeat to these Penguins just last night. Aside from a 4-0 win over the Rangers three games back, the Bruins’ offense has scuffled in a big way.
They’ve also averaged just 2.00 goals per game over their last 10 and have slipped all the way to 23rd with just 2.65 goals per game on the season despite a power play that sits 12th with a solid 24% clip on the campaign.
If you look at the underlying metrics, it’s no surprise that the Bruins have struggled to score even-strength goals this season. At 5v5, the Bruins rank 21st in scoring chances for/60, 29th in high-danger chances for/60 and 28th in expected goals for/60, according to Natural Stat Trick. Their 1.98 goals/60 at 5v5 this season is right in line with their 1.95 expected mark, so it would appear this struggling even-strength offense has deserved its fate at this juncture.
Secondary scoring is certainly to blame as the Bruins’ high-octane top line is producing as expected, however their bottom-six forward group has been awful. From that group, Nick Ritchie’s 15 points is buoyed by his nine power-play points given his spot on the team’s top unit, but otherwise the bottom-six scoring leader is Charlie Coyle with just eight points in 25 games. That’s not good enough from your third line and it’s precisely why the Bruins’ offensive struggles remain at even strength.
Allowing four goals in back-to-back games is a rare occurrence for this Bruins back end, but this defense has been real good despite getting hit by the injury bug of late.
The Bruins enter this one ranked fifth with 2.38 goals against per game, but they also sport the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill with a mark of 88.8%.
The advanced metrics are there to back of the surface results. At 5v5, the B’s rank 11th in scoring chances against/60, ninth in high-danger chances against/60 and seventh in expected goals against/60 on the campaign. Their 2.13 goals against/60 at 5v5 is actually above their 1.96 expected mark, so it’s clear that the Bruins have indeed been one of the NHL’s best bluelines this season.
Boston has won just two of their last eight games, but don’t blame the defense as they have surrendered just 1.88 goals per game during that stretch. Additionally, they have allowed just 1.63 regulation goals against per game in that time.
Despite allowing just 25 shots while outshooting the Penguins 43-25 last night, the Bruins surrendered four goals in that one as they look for better goaltending in the rematch tonight.
That goaltending will come from an unfamiliar source in this one. Tuukka Rask is on the shelf with an undisclosed ailment at the moment and after Jaroslav Halak took the loss last night, the Bruins will turn to Dan Vladar in what marks his first career NHL start.
A third-round pick of the Bruins in the 2015 draft, Vladar has earned his way into this nod tonight. The Czech puck-stopper has been sensational with the Bruins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Providence since making his way overseas.
Last season, Vladar turned in an eye-popping 1.79 GAA and .936 Sv% across 25 AHL games with Providence. This season, he turned in an unbeatable 1.29 GAA and .956 Sv% in six games with the top professional Czech league while tuning up for the season before posting a 2.01 GAA and .923 Sv% in five AHL contests as well.
Now, the 23-year-old will make his NHL debut, and despite the tough matchup against a Penguins offense that enter this one hot, it will be interesting to see if he can continue his stellar work of late at the world’s highest level.
As just noted, the Penguins’ offense is hot entering this one having averaged 4.17 goals per game over their last six while winning all six of those contests to boot.
It’s interesting that they’ve done so while averaging just 27.5 shots per game. With 25 goals on 165 shots over their six-game winning streak, the Penguins have been shooting at 15.2% as a team, a number largely unsustainable moving forward.
Still, they’re once again getting elite production from Evgeni Malkin after a slow first six weeks to the season as the Penguins are once again rolling out a pair of high-octane, top-six lines at the moment.
For the season, the Pens are tied for 10th with 3.21 goals per game on the season, and while their 18.8% power play still sits 23rd, they have scored a power play goal in each of their last three games with a 37.5% clip in that time. Over their six-game win streak, the Pens’ power play has clicked at 33.3% as this group is starting to meet expectations at both even strength and on the man advantage.
That said, the underlying metrics aren’t pretty. At 5v5, the Penguins rank 25th in scoring chances for/60, 23rd in high-danger chances for/60 and 27th in expected goals for/60. Their 2.58 goals/60 mark at 5v5 is well above their 1.97 expected mark, so they’re certainly out-producing their expected results.
They’ve clearly been better of late and the power play has helped, but when we combine the poor underlying data and the unsustainable shooting rate of late, don’t be surprised to see the Penguins’ offense cooled off some moving forward.
The Penguin’s back end has seen much of the team’s injury woes this season, but the team has done a nice job of battling through those injuries while they’ve been getting far better goaltending than they were early in the season.
The team’s defense and goaltending have teamed up to allow just 1.50 goals per game over the current winning streak, but have also allowed just six goals over their last five games.
For the season, the Penguins rank 14th with 2.86 goals against per game on the campaign, although their penalty killing sits 23rd with a subpar 75% mark. As a result, it would appear their 5v5 defense has been quite strong and the metrics back up that notion.
At 5v5 this season, the Penguins rank sixth in scoring chances against/60 and while they rank 19th in terms of high-danger chances against/60, they sit 13th in expected goals against/60. Their 2.19 goals against/60 is a little above their 2.07 expected mark, so this is a team that’s deserved their solid work at even strength this season.
The Penguins were putting forth solid defensive metrics early in the season but were getting lit up due to some extremely unreliable goaltending, largely on the shoulders of No. 1 Tristan Jarry who has turned his season around in a big way. However, with Jarry earning another win last night, backup Casey DeSmith gets back into the crease tonight, and he’s been very good of late.
Over his two March outings so far, DeSmith has yielded just one goal and posted a .979 Sv% in the process. He surrendered one goal to the Rangers on March 7 before shutting out the lowly Buffalo Sabres six days later.
For the season, the 29-year-old has posted a 2.23 GAA and .912 Sv% across eight starts and nine appearances, going 6-2-0 in that time. Due to the presence of Matt Murray until his trade to the Senators in the offseason, DeSmith spent more time in the AHL than he deserved as he’s posted a fine-looking 2.58 GAA and .917 Sv% across his 59 NHL appearances. His AHL numbers haven’t been as good, but DeSmith has been reliable when called upon for the Penguins to this point in his career.
He’s been torched in two career appearances against the Bruins, allowing six goals on 56 shots while posting a 5.50 GAA and .893 Sv% in that time, so he’ll look to turn around that small sample size in this one tonight.
Bruins vs. Penguins NHL Pick
We certainly have two teams trending in opposite directions of late as the Penguins bring that six-game win streak into this one while the Bruins have dropped four of their last five.
That said, I like the slight road dogs to exact some revenge in the second half of the back-to-back tonight.
It would be more concerning if the Bruins’ usually-stout defense has been a major issue, and while they’ve allowed four goals in back-to-back games, they have been one of the NHL’s best and most consistent defenses this season, and that will remain along with that elite penalty kill.
As far as special teams go, the advantage is with Boston given their PK and 12th-ranked power play while both ends of special teams for Pittsburgh sit in the bottom-third of the league.
The offensive advantage is with Pittsburgh given their recent body of work but also the fact they have two high-end lines going with secondary production to boot. That said, this Bruins offense is better than 2.65 goals per game and that power play could do damage if afforded the opportunities against a weak Penguins PK.
The goaltending situation is most interesting here with Vladar making his NHL debut and DeSmith white-hot in the month of March. That said, his .979 Sv% in two March outings is certainly unsustainable, as is that Penguins offensive production given their lack of scoring chances combined with a sky-high shooting rate of late.
The momentum is with the Pens, but this Bruins team is due for a bounce back so give me the road dogs in this one tonight.