The Avalanche finish up the first road trip of the season in Beantown against the big, bad Bruins. The 2017-2018 Bruins make their home debut vs. the Avalanche in a rare weekday afternoon tilt. Because the NHL likes ‘synergy’ and ‘rivalries’ this is actually the first half of a home-and-home against Boston as Colorado will see them again on Wednesday night for the home opener in Denver. The Avalanche are settling into an every-other-night game tempo after dropping the 4-1 decision to New Jersey on Saturday. The Bruins have had 4 days off since their first game, a 4-3 win against the Predators in Nashville.
Early returns on the season so far have been pretty Jekyll and Hyde, with the powerplay and penalty kill firmly in the Hyde category. The Avs have to stop taking penalties and when they do, they have to actually kill them off. It’d also help if we saw a 2018 powerplay more like the Mikko Rantanen tally in game one and not the 0-for-6 garbage in the New Jersey game. Coach Bednar called out his top line to be better following the Devils game and the lineup is very much still a work in process.
The Avalanche forwards will likely look pretty similar to the end of the Devils game. Carl Soderberg was injected into the lineup for the game against New Jersey and rewarded Coach Bednar with the lone Avs goal in the game. Early reports from practice Sunday have Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher on a line with Gabriel Landeskog, a combo that was thrown together against the Devils. That pushes Colin Wilson further down the lineup, which I’m not sure is the best use of assets. A line of Soderberg, Wilson and Comeau is a unique kind of a nightmare for many Avalanche fans.
The defensive pairings for the Avalanche for tonight's game are anticipated to resemble the Devils game, though Nikita Zadorov may move up the lineup to pair with Erik Johnson. That would relegate Chris Bigras down to a pair with Anton Lindholm, which is a little green, in my opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bigras stay in and paired with Johnson while Big Z still finds his legs. Another option is for Mark Barberio to be reinserted into the lineup in place of Lindholm instead.
The goaltending rotation should see Semyon Varlamov back in the crease tonight, despite Jonathan Bernier’s heroic efforts against the Devils. Varly needs to continue his return to form against a top-heavy Bruins squad.
*Update: we have lineup confirmation
While the mainstream hockey media has pounded the Avalanche for a ‘do-nothing’ offseason, they probably should have focused that narrative a little more firmly in Boston’s direction. Despite barely making it into the post-season last year and bowing out in the first round, little was done to the Bruins roster in the off-season. Out were depth guys like Colin Miller and Joe Morrow on defense and Dominic Moore on offense. In was Paul Postma (who?) on the blueline. Truly a roster shake-up if I ever saw one. Really the only change was Bruce Cassidy taking the reins toward the end of the season once they kicked Claude Julien to the curb.
The big story in the B’s offseason was the drama surrounding the re-signing of David Pastrnak. Once that got done, Boston had a pretty solid top 6 on paper: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Pastrnak are the shiny diamond at the top of the heap followed by David Krejci, and David Backes on the 2nd line. After that? Lots of meh and unproven youth, kind of like the Avalanche. Unfortunately for them, they won’t see that package of players together for a bit.
The question for this game is whether Bergeron (undisclosed) will slot back into the lineup. Looks doubtful. Backes is also out with diverticulitis for likely the entire month of October. Expect Ryan Spooner to anchor the top line and some combo of guys with extra consonants in their names to fill out the 2nd line.
The buzz on the blueline for the Bruins is, of course, Charlie McAvoy. He’s got a legit security blanket being paired with Zdeno Chara. But behind them is a solid #2 of Tory Krug (not likely to play after taking a puck to the mug in the preseason) and big, young, Colorado native, Brandon Carlo. Filling in for the injured Krug in game 1 of the season was Matt Grzelcyk. The Bruins leaned heavily on their top 4 in that game with Chara and McAvoy getting north of 22 mins, but Carlo and Miller just a couple of minutes behind.
With the front office failing to find him a reliable backup in the offseason, expect to see Tuukka Rask patrolling the blue paint tonight, especially with 4 nights off between games.
How to Watch/Listen
SN1, NESN (if you’re a masochist), and Altitude Sports will be televising the game. Puck is set to drop at 1 pm eastern time - nothing like a little morning hockey in the Rockies.
You can also listen to the game with our friend Marc Moser on Altitude Sports Radio 950AM.