Four of the top five scorers in the NHL will occupy the same ice sheet when the Bruins host the Edmonton Oilers in a Saturday matinee at TD Garden.
The Oilers’ offense is generated by Connor McDavid (22-42-64) and Leon Draisaitl (23-40-63), the most formidable one-two punch in the league who center different lines.
The Bruins (24-7-11) counter with first-line wingers David Pastrnak (30-30-60), the NHL’s leading goal scorer, and Brad Marchand (20-39-59), who flank All-Star center Patrice Bergeron.
“It will be good for the fans obviously, you have some high energy skill on the ice and hopefully it plays out in our favor,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy following Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton.
Cassidy has a plan in place when snipers like Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Chicago’s Patrick Kane are on the ice.
McDavid, 22, is the reigning MVP and scoring leader with the enormous skating and stick skills enhanced by youthful energy and confidence.
McDavid is supported by quality wingers James Neal (19-8-27) and Zach Kassian (13-14-27). Neal has 12 power play goals, second in the league behind Pastrnak (14).
“He is a unique challenge every night,” said Cassidy. “He can play in all situations and I don’t think you ever shut him down but if you can contain him and minimize the damage and obviously keep the puck out of his hands as much as possible.”
“That’s easier said than done. So, puck possession by the other guys that are playing against him and finding him early. But again, it’s a unique challenge by how good he is but there are other teams where we certainly key on other guys.”
The killing zone
The Bruins’ penalty kill unit squelched two Columbus power plays in Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss.
The Bruins have the league’s second-ranked penalty kill after 42 games. The Bruins have killed 106-of-124 penalties for an 85.5% success rate with two shorthanded goals. The Bruins have an 88.2% success rate on home ice.
The Terminator on the Bruins’ penalty kill has been defenseman Brandon Carlo, who logged a team-high 3:02 shorthanded minutes against the Blue Jackets.
Carlo averages 20:24 minutes per game on the second unit with Torey Krug, who puts in 20:27 minutes. Krug does his special teams time on the power play while Carlo directs the kill. Carlo learned the basics of the PK at the NHL level from team captain Zdeno Chara.
“When I came here, Z was a big part of that,” said Carlo. “The way that we communicate on the ice and I think we do a good job with our long sticks to eliminate plays as fast as we can and overall just being in the right positions.”
Edmonton (21-17-5) has the NHL’s top power-play unit with 39 goals on 130 advantages for a 30% success rate. Draisaitl centers the first unit with McDavid on the left point.
Around the boards
Cassidy said he will start Jaroslav Halak in goal against the Oilers. Halak has platooned on a semi-regular basis this season with Tuukka Rask.
Halak is 9-3-5 with 542 saves, 2.20 goals against average and a .930 save percentage with three shutouts. Halak is coming off a disheartening 3-2 shootout loss at New Jersey on Tuesday.
Cassidy said there was no upgrade on the status of injured defensemen Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body). John Moore has been a steady presence on the third blue line unit with Matt Grzelcyk. Cassidy was named the head coach of the Atlantic Division in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis.