Keys to the Game: The Boston Bruins are no slouch; they're currently second place in the Eastern Conference behind only the dominant force that is the Pittsburgh Penguins. "But Kyle, isn't the Eastern Conference terrible?" you ask? Well to answer your question: yes. It is. But the Bruins are not.
The Bruins are coming off their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in three years (2011 and 2013) and don't seem to be struggling in their mission to return there.
While yes, they are for the most part beating the crap out of the pitiful group of teams that comprise the conference they play in, the Bruins are a rock-solid 8-2-2 vs. the Western Conference, including dealing the Anaheim Ducks a shootout loss in Boston on Halloween night. While the Ducks got a point from the affair, the loss was a pretty regrettable one as the Ducks didn't really put forth their best effort and as a result the Bruins stifling defense got the best of them.
Speaking of that defense, it boasts arguably the greatest and ugliest blueliner in the NHL in Zdeno Chara. While he may be pretty ugly to look at, his defensive play is a thing of beauty. Despite playing against the best forwards the league has to offer every single game, Chara is still a +3 on the season and has a 55.7% Corsi ratio. While he's hardly an unknown guy, the Ducks haven't seen him all that often and they need to be prepared because the big line is going to have their work cut out for them in this one.
And that's only compounded when you consider past Chara, the Bruins boast a defense that allows barely over two goals per game (2nd in the NHL with only Los Angeles being better), and a goaltender in Tukka Rask who has rather quietly had a year that will likely land him a Vezina Trophy nomination.
Key to the game: the depth scoring will need to continue to get it done.
What Can We Learn From this Game: This is the third time this season the Ducks will be meeting up with one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams who I believe are the only prayer that conference has at winning this year's Stanley Cup. So far the Ducks are winless against these teams.
With the defense the Bruins are boasting, the Ducks cannot afford another lackluster first period that puts them in a hole when they head to the locker room after 20 minutes. In most cases there's plenty of reason to believe the boys can get it back. Ruling out how immensely unsustainable it is to do so every game, the fact of the matter is the Bruins just don't allow themselves to get scored on pretty much ever. Digging yourself even the smallest hole becomes a mountain to climb when it comes to catching up.
Fearless Prediction: Round god-knows-what-number of "Battle of the Balding, Angry Looking, Portly White NHL Coaches" goes to Bruce Boudreau after he successfully downs a quart of Haagen-Daas in a record-shattering 6.8 seconds. All the while making me proud.
Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.