Here's your Bruins-Flames preview as the B's get set to take on Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
It's not totally accurate to say that Gaudreau is having a "breakout year" with the Flames. But offensively, "Johnny Hockey" has taken his game to another level in 2017-18 and presents one of the Bruins' biggest offensive challenges of the season. The BC alum is tied for second in the NHL in scoring with 66 points in 56 games. He has the same number of points as Edmonton's Connor McDavid and is behind only Tampa's Nikita Kucherov (71 points).
He's making his fourth-round draft status and, like Brad Marchand, his $6.75 million salary look like a bargain at this point.
Gaudreau enters Tuesday's game against the Bruins on a six-game point streak. He's amassed three goals and six assists in that span. At age 24, the winger has emerged as one of the league's best playmakers and puck-handlers and the Bruins will need to play a cleaner game than they have in their past two if they want to keep him off the score sheet on Tuesday.
What Can Gaudreau Do?
If the Bruins aren't careful, Gaudreau can beat them either with his own offense or by feeding his linemates. Here's a goal from last Thursday against the Devils by Sean Monahan, who took a nifty feed from the winger before burying the rebound on a funny bounce:
Monahan, by the way, is also having a career-best season. He's up to 27 goals in 55 games and, barring injury, will obliterate his career high of 31.
Gaudreau also scored against the Devils, a backhand through the five-hole of goalie Keith Kinkaid on a breakaway:
Here's an example of how Gaudreau can spark the Flames' rush and make the Bruins' forwards pay if they leave his linemates open through the neutral zone:
The expectation is that the Bruins look better on defense than the Rangers or Devils did in these clips. But to be honest, they haven't looked much different lately. They've been disorganized in their own end and turned the puck over too much, which has created too many odd-man rushes or breakaways for their opponents. Gaudreau and the Flames can be deadly if they're given similar opportunities, and the B's can't lean on their goalies to bail them out every night.
Hopefully, for the Bruins' sake, they turn things around from their recent performance on defense. They'll need it against these guys.
-- By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.do[email protected].