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People Livin’ in Competition: Blackhawks vs. Bruins Preview

The Blackhawks and Bruins meet again for the second time in three games.

Boston Bruins v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s been less than a week since the Chicago Blackhawks have faced off against the Boston Bruins — a 4-3 heartbreaking loss in Boston last Thursday — but the two teams are back together again Tuesday night at the United Center for a rematch. Each team has only played one game — both wins — in the meantime.

As was mentioned in Thursday night’s preview, the Bruins are still led predominantly by their big four of Brad Marchand (1.19 points-per-game), David Pastrnak (1.02), Patrice Bergeron (0.80), and Taylor Hall (0.71), all of whom play together in some line combinations regularly. All season long, the Bruins top-six have been one of the best units in the league, especially when it comes to balanced offense.

However, secondary scoring has really stepped up recently at 5-on-5, with the leading producers over the last handful of games being the third-line of Craig Smith, Charlie Coyle, and Trent Frederic. In their last five games, Smith has seven goals and eight points, Coyle has two goals and six points, and Frederic has five assists and six points — with all those points coming at 5-on-5. Pastrnak also had six points (4 G, 2 A) in his last five games, but three of those points came on the power play and another was an empty net goal.

The Bruins latest win was their 36th of the season — tied for seventh most in the league — a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night. Again, it was the Bruins’ Coyle line shining, with the former Minnesota Wild player acting as the hero with a late goal in the third period to win the game. The Bruins are just a fast, deep team that can beat their opponents almost at will sometimes.

The incredible forward depth is why the Bruins have only one regulation loss in their last 11 games (9-1-1) dating back to mid-February. Their offense — which has been middling most of the season — has especially stepped up in their last five games with 19 goals, a rate increase of 0.79 over their seasonal average per game. If the Bruins can keep up this scoring pace, combined with their general possession dominance, they’ll be a difficult out for anyone facing them in the playoffs this year.

The only thing the Blackhawks have in common with the Bruins this season is that they’re coming off a recent win — 6-3 over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night — and their offense has wildly increased over their past several games — 23 goals in their last 5 games, a rate almost double their usual per game average. Otherwise, the Bruins are obviously the superior team, but at least the Blackhawks have been playing better as of late.

The Blackhawks were especially strong in the last 40 minutes against the Senators and showed a resilience after losing both Connor Murphy and Tyler Johnson to concussion protocol. In particular, the Murphy loss was major: not only because he’s one of the best Blackhawks defensemen, but also in the manner in which he was taken out of the game. And yet, the Blackhawks bounced back after going down 2-0 after the first period with two goals from Jonathan Toews and Caleb Jones as well a three assist outing from Patrick Kane. Those three points pushed Kane into sole-possession of the second-leading points record in Blackhawks franchise history, passing Bobby Hull.

Even in the loss to Boston last Thursday, the Blackhawks hung decently with one of the best teams in the league for a majority of game, even if there was a clear discrepancy of quality between the two teams. Brandon Hagel scored twice, Alex DeBrincat had a goal and an assist, and four other forwards — Toews, Kane, Dylan Strome, and Kirby Dach — also showed up on the scorecard. The Blackhawks were just 18 second away from pushing the Bruins into overtime. Not bad, honestly.

Philipp Kurashev and Henrik Borgstrom draw back into the lineup but the defense will stay the same as the previous game minus the injured Murphy.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Bruins

46.91% (29th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 52.4% (9th)

46.88% (24th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 53.57% (7th)

2.63 (26th) — Goals per game — 3.02 (15th)

3.43 (25th) — Goals against per game — 2.68 (5th)

48.5% (21st) — Faceoffs — 53.5% (4th)

20.4% (16th) — Power play — 25.0% (4th)

75.6% (26th) — Penalty kill — 81.2% (11th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Strome — Kane

Hagel — Toews — Dach

Kubalik — Carpenter — Lafferty

Borgstrom — Kurashev — Entwistle

de Haan — S. Jones

McCabe — C. Jones

Stillman — Gustafsson

Fleury

Lankinen

Bruins

Marchand — Bergeron — DeBrusk

Hall — Haula — Pastrnak

Frederic — Coyle — Smith

Foligno — Nosek — Lazar

Reilly — McAvoy

Grzelcyk — Carlo

Forbort — Clifton

Ullmark

Swayman

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+